MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Through the good or bad, Sam Richardson will be Iowa State’s quarterback today when the Cyclones face Tulsa in the 54th Liberty Bowl.
In his final bowl press conference Sunday, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads said there will be no quick hook for the redshirt freshman.
“No,” Rhoads quickly stated.
Rhoads was responding to question on how he replaced Jared Barnett with Steele Jantz after a pair of series in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s a different situation in the fact that ... that leading into that game preparation was different in how those guys performed,” Rhoads continued. “Sam has performed well in anticipation with this game whereas we flipped-flopped back and forth a year ago where there was probably a little more competition in the month of December.”
Rhoads added that both Barnett and Jantz have been a big help to Richardson in his preparation for the Liberty Bowl.
“Those guys ... and I heard Courtney (ISU offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham) finishing up with the ESPN crew this morning and he made a very accurate statement,” Rhoads related. “He said, ‘Those guys are in it for each other.’
“There is no animosity. There is no division in that quarterback room.”
Rhoads also likes how Richardson gives the Cyclones’ offense a new identity.
When Iowa State played Tulsa on Sept. 1, Rhoads felt the offense did a great job of establishing an identity of being quick hitting in the pass game and aggressive with a vertical run game.
The Cyclones did that with Jantz throwing for 281 yards and two scores and Shontrelle Johnson running for 120 yards a touchdown. Neither of those players will play today unless Richardson is hurt and Johnson makes a miralcous recovery from a knee injury suffered in early December.
“Since then it has changed a number of times based on plans we had to counter and what we tried to execute on offense,” Rhoads said of his team’s offensive identity. “If I am Tulsa preparing for this team, I’m not sure what I’m going to get from Iowa State’s offense going into this.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
While Rhoads said there are many keys to the game, one of the obvious, at least defensively, is containing the dynamic running back trio of Trey Watts, Je’Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton.
The Cyclones held Tulsa to 160 yards on 34 attempts in the 38-23 win on Sept. 1, and 77 of those came on a 77-yard run by Watts in the fourth quarter.
Iowa State had linebacker Jake Knott for that game. They won’t have the all-Big 12 performer this time around because of a shoulder injury.
Rhoads said the Golden Hurricane rush attack that ranks 11th in the FBS at 240 per game is “absolutely” a concern.
“Whether it was with Jake Knott or without him there is great concern for defending this run game. Very potent.”
Another key, said Rhoads, is handling the pressure defense played by Tulsa that resulted in 104 tackles for loss and 48 sacks during the Golden Hurricane’s first 13 games.
“It’s very effective and was effective against us in the opener and obviously proven effective throughout the whole year with the success they’ve had in pressuring quarterbacks and sacking quarterbacks and the number of tackles for losses.
“I think the match-up with our offensive tackles and their defensive ends will be one of the pivotal match-ups in determining the outcome of the game.”
ADMIRATION FOR TULSA
During a luncheon Saturday it was noted Tulsa has an enrollment of less than 4,000. Rhoads said he knows what it feels like to be the small fish playing in a big pond.
“I appreciate it by having been in their shoes,” Rhoads said. “I was at the University of Pacific for three years and we were one of the schools with the lowest enrollment at that time.
“They have the lowest enrollment of all FBS schools and there is challenges that go with that that we faced back in those days in Stockton, and anytime you achieve with that you always feel like you are doing more with less.
“It’s a pretty good feeling.”
Rhoads said he is glad his team had a relatively quiet three days of prep work since it’s arrival Wednesday.
“We had about three days of no distractions from the fan base standpoint,” Rhoads said Sunday. “Last night Vicky (coach Rhoads’ wife) and I took the staff out for dinner and we made a stroll down in that area (Beale Street) and the Cyclone Nation had definitely showed up in the city of Memphis. And Memphis was very aware of that last night — and if they tought that was all, they have another think coming.”
- Nelson is a reporter for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.