In a game that was higher-scoring than a lot of people anticipated, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane came out on top with a 31-17 victory over the Iowa State Cyclones in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Monday.
It was a huge win for Conference USA over the Big 12 and allowed the Golden Hurricane to avenge a 38-23 loss earlier in the season.
Iowa State got a steady dose of the Tulsa rushing attack and was unable to slow it down from the second quarter on.
The result of the game was very surprising to some, considering Iowa State was a favorite coming in.
Here are the position group grades from the Liberty Bowl.
Cody Green, Tulsa: B-
Cody Green did more with his feet than his arm in this one. The junior quarterback only completed 11 of 23 passes for 93 yards and an interception, but he did some damage with his feet.
Green carried the ball nine times for 58 yards and a score. He did a great job of orchestrating the Golden Hurricane offense.
The team had the ball for nearly 36 minutes, which was a huge difference in the game.
Sam Richardson, Iowa State: C+
Sam Richardson played most of the game, but Steele Jantz did relieve him for the final two drives of the game. Both of those possessions resulted in turnovers.
Richardson completed 10 of 21 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Take away a 69-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ernst Brun Jr. and it was an awful game.
He did carry the ball 10 times for 46 yards to lead the team in rushing.
The Tulsa rushing attack was very tough to stop. Led by Trey Watts, the group ran all over the Iowa State defense.
Watts finished the game with 149 yards on 25 carries. He was joined by Ja'Terian Douglas. Douglas finished the game with 79 yards on only eight carries.
Big man Alex Singleton was a beast near the goal line. He only totaled 35 yards on 15 carries, but put up three touchdowns on the day.
Iowa State: D+
The Cyclones seemingly could not get anything going as far as the running game is concerned. The leading rusher on the day was quarterback Sam Richardson who had 46 yards.
Running back James White carried the ball 10 times for only 36 yards.
Not very impressive numbers at all for the Cyclones.
Even though the Tulsa receivers did not do much, it is hard to give the group a grade worse than a C. The Tulsa game plan coming in was to run the football, and the receiving group did a great job of holding their blocks to open up some running lanes.
The leading receiver on the day was Thomas Roberson. He caught two passes for 35 yards.
Even with only 93 yards passing, the Tulsa receivers still get a C, because of everything else the group did.
Iowa State: D
There were not a lot of passing yards to go around for either team in this game, and Iowa State got most of its production in the passing game from its tight end.
No receiver caught more than two passes, and the group totaled less than 100 yards receiving.
Not a good day at the office for this group.
When it comes to tight end, Tulsa does not really use one in its offense.
With that being said, it is hard to give a grade lower than a C to a team that loves to run the football and uses fullbacks and running backs to move the ball down the field.
There were no catches for the tight ends on the Tulsa roster in this one.
Iowa State: A
Perhaps the lone bright spot on offense for Iowa State was tight end Ernst Brun Jr. The big man had four catches for 102 yards and a 69-yard touchdown reception to put Iowa State up 17-7 late in the fourth quarter.
It was the best game of his Iowa State career and certainly something to build on for next season.
Once again, the Tulsa offensive line was very impressive. The group opened up some huge holes in the running game, allowing the team to finish with 317 yards on the ground on 60 carries.
That is quite a day at the office for that group.
When Tulsa wanted to throw the ball, quarterback Cody Green had plenty of time to find receivers down the field.
Iowa State: D
Unlike the Tulsa offensive line, the group at Iowa State did not do much to open up holes for its running backs.
Iowa State only managed 98 yards on the ground on 28 carries.
Both of the Cyclones quarterbacks found themselves running for their lives on more than one occasion. Overall, not a very good day for the Iowa State offensive line.
The Golden Hurricanes were excellent along the defensive line for the better part of the game. They had enough space eaters to clog the middle and hold Iowa State under 100 yards rushing on the game.
This group was one of the main reasons Iowa State only totaled 268 yards of total offense on the day. By stopping the run, it forced the Iowa State defense to be on the field much more than it wanted to.
Iowa State: C-
It is hard to give a grade higher than a C to a group that allowed 317 yards on the ground. No matter how that is looked at, 5.3 yards a carry is an awful lot.
The Tulsa offensive line seemingly had its way with this group, pushing it around all day and never letting up.
Coming into the game, Iowa State certainly had the more highly touted linebackers, but Shawn Jackson of Tulsa had something to say about that.
He had a pair of sacks along with a forced fumble to seal the victory for the Golden Hurricane. Jackson has come a long way since being suspended for the first three games of the season, and now looks like a future star for Tulsa.
Iowa State: C+
A.J. Klein was certainly the biggest name on the defensive side of the ball in this one, and he had quite a game, tying the Liberty Bowl record with 19 tackles. The Cyclones were without fellow star linebacker Jake Knott who missed the game with an injury.
The Cyclones defense allowed 31 points, and while the defensive line was dominated for most of the game, the linebackers also did not have an answer for the rushing attack of Tulsa.
This was another group that put together a solid effort for the Golden Hurricane. The duo of Iowa State quarterbacks only completed half of their 28 passes for 170 yards with a touchdown and two picks.
Starter Sam Richardson was not able to get much going, and when backup Steele Jantz came in, it was much of the same, as Iowa State turned the ball over on each of its final two possessions.
Overall a solid job by this group.
Iowa State: A
The secondary of Iowa State is one bright spot from the Liberty Bowl. Cornerback Jeremy Reeves picked off a Cody Green pass and took it 31 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa State up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
At that point it looked like the Cyclones were going to roll. Then the Tulsa rushing attack took over.
On the day, the group held Tulsa to only 93 yards passing and kept Green in check through the air.
There was nothing overly exciting to talk about on special teams and Tulsa kicker Daniel Schwartz connected on a 40-yard field goal. This was his only attempt of the game.
Punter Cole Way struggled on his eight attempts, only averaging 36.5 per attempt with a long of 50.
Special teams did not really help or hurt the Cyclones.
Iowa State: C+
The Cyclones had very similar stats to the Golden Hurricane on special teams, with the exception of a missed field goal.
Kicker Edwin Areco connected on a 33-yard field goal, but also had a miss.
Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp only averaged 35.8 points on eight punts, similar to what Way of Iowa State did.
Bill Blankenship, Tulsa: A
Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship came into this one with a game plan to execute, and he did just that.
The Golden Hurricanes wanted to run the football from the start. That is exactly what they did. Even after falling behind 17-7 in the first quarter, Tulsa did not sway at all from its game plan and that is a credit to Blankenship.
He also put together quite a defensive game plan, that had Iowa State guessing on offense all night long.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State: C
After a fast start, Iowa State struggled to move the ball on offense beginning in the second quarter and continuing until the end of the game.
Rhoads might have waited a little too long to put in quarterback Steele Jantz, but that did not really matter as Jantz threw a pick to seal the Tulsa victory.
Not a good way to end the season for Rhoads or the Cyclones.