Scouting The Cyclones
Iowa State's season couldn't be off to a worse start. Losses to FCS Northern Iowa and arch-rival Iowa have the Cyclones at 0-2 and staring down the barrel at a potential 2 or 3-win season.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson took over at the end of last season, getting his feet wet in preparation for the starting gig in 2013. Richardson has been solid, tossing for 502 yards, five touchdowns and two picks. He's also leading ISU in rushing yards, which wouldn't be a bad thing if he didn't have just 86 yards.
Seriously, the Cyclones ground game has been nonexistent. James White and Shontrelle Johnson have combined for just 87 yards while no Cyclone rusher has yet found the end zone.
The bright spot for ISU's offense has been breakout sophomore receiver Quenton Bundrage. Bundrage has compiled 177 yards and three touchdowns through two games this year after totaling just 232 yards and two scores all of last season.
How Tulsa Can Win
Get the ball into Trey Watts' hands. Watts is TU's best player, and last week against Oklahoma he made that loud and clear. He had 125 total yards of offense with one touchdown, not including a 77-yard punt return. Whether it's a handoff or a little swing pass into the flat, TU must find a way to get Watts 25+ touches Thursday night.
In addition to Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas must also play well. Northern Iowa dashed for 228 yards against the Cyclones while Iowa ran for 218. If TU can pound the ball on the ground and chew up clock, not only will it lead to points but also keep the Cyclones' offense off the field.
Bill Blankenship discussed the improvement of the TU offense at his weekly press conference.
"We're still trying to find ourselves offensively, consistently," Blankenship said. "I think we're much improved from where we were. If you go from game 1 to 2 to 3 I think we've continued to improve offensively. I think we're a better offense than we were two weeks ago, but it takes a while."
For that ground game to work, Tulsa really needs to get off to a strong start. When you're getting blown out (such as in the Bowling Green & Oklahoma games) it's hard to establish a strong ground attack.
"We've got to block well and not play from behind," Blankenship added. "When you play from behind you don't rush the ball quite as often and in two of the three games that we've played we've been playing from behind."
• TU is looking for its 599th all-time win. In addition, a win would mark the Hurricane's 399th all-time home win.
• Tulsa has won eight straight home games at Chapman Stadium.
• TU is looking for its first regular-season win against a BCS Conference-opponent since 1998 when they defeated Oklahoma State 35-20. A win would snap string of 23 straight regular-season losses to BCS-conference teams.
Each team has motivation for Thursday night. Iowa State is in a desperate fight to keep its season alive. If the Cyclones fall in Tulsa, any chance at recovering to make a bowl game is likely gone.
Blankenship talked about the importance of this matchup for both sides.
"I think we're in the same boat," Blankenship declared. "We're two teams that are coming off a successful run a year ago and I think we're both in search of the next win. I think we both desperately need to get back on track and I have no idea what's going on in their world but I can certainly picture that Coach Rhoads and their staff feel the same way about their players: that they need to get over the hump."
For Tulsa, a nationally-televised home game is a huge deal. Games like this help tremendously in recruiting and national exposure, so a win would do wonders. It should be one of the rowdiest crowds of the season at Chapman Stadium.
I think Tulsa's home-field advantage overcomes Iowa State's desperation, barely.
Tulsa wins, 23-21