Liberty Bowl: Run Defense Once Again Fails Iowa State vs. Tulsa

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Liberty Bowl: Run Defense Once Again Fails Iowa State vs. Tulsa
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

You could see it coming from a mile away, but it still hit Iowa State like a freight train.

Tulsa racked up 317 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against the Cyclones in the Liberty Bowl on Monday night, emerging with a 31-17 victory when all was said and done.

Coming into the contest, Iowa State was allowing 4.21 yards per carry, 67th in the nation (via CFBStats.com). That included ceding 239 yards and a touchdown on the ground to West Virginia to close out the regular season with a 31-24 loss.

On the other hand, Tulsa (11-3, 7-1 C-USA) headed into the Liberty Bowl averaging 4.97 yards per carry (29th in the country). That included posting 37 rushing touchdowns (tied for 10th).

Not surprisingly, most of the damage on the ground was created by junior running backs Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas on Monday night. Tulsa's top two leading rushers scampered for a combined 228 yards.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps what was most disappointing for the Cyclones was that most of the carnage came in the second half. They were leading after one half 17-7, highlighted by Jeremy Reeves' 31-yard interception return for a touchdown.

But in the second half, the run defense predictably imploded, as the Golden Hurricane racked up 24 unanswered points en route to victory.

This, of course, is nothing new for Iowa State. The last time it had a top-25 run defense (in terms of yards per carry allowed) was in 2008. In fact, it's been a rough go in general for the Cyclones for decades. The last head coach who finished with a winning record at the school was Earle Bruce, who ended up with a 36-32 mark from 1973-78.

This marks the second straight loss in a bowl game for the Cyclones. They lost to Rutgers last season in the Pinstripe Bowl 27-13. In that game, Scarlet Knights running back Jawan Jamison rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

I'm sensing a trend.

 

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