AMES, Iowa – Through the first quarter of the first game on the University of Tulsa’s 2012 football schedule, the situation seemed exceedingly positive.
The Golden Hurricane had a 16-7 lead and junior Cody Green – debuting as TU’s quarterback – was 10-of-13 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown. From that point, however, Green and the offense unraveled while their defensive teammates were cut to pieces by the precision passing of Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz.
“When adversity hits, you’ve got to stop it in the bud,” Green said. “We couldn’t stop the snowball from rolling.”
The end result was TU’s 38-23 defeat, witnessed by a Jack Trice Stadium crowd of 54,931 – the largest opening-day crowd in Iowa State football history.
After collecting nine catches for 90 yards, Hurricane senior wide receiver Bryan Burnham sustained what may have been a serious right-knee injury during the third period. TU is expected to provide a status update Sunday.
In Green’s first start since transferring to Tulsa from Nebraska (where he was 4-0 as the starting quarterback), he followed his efficient first quarter with an unfortunate stat line. During the second, third and fourth quarters of Saturday’s game – his first game action since 2010 – he was 13-of-36 passing for only 103 yards, with two interceptions.
“There’s going to be plenty to go around – coaching included – that we’ve got to be better at,” TU coach Bill Blankenship said. “I’d like for (Green) to have handled the pressure at the end a little better – the pass-rush pressure. That’s probably where the (rust) probably hurt him.”
When TU led 16-7 in the second period, weakside linebacker DeAundre Brown says he expected the Golden Hurricane to finish in a positive manner and record its first win over a Big 12 opponent since 1998. Instead, TU’s Big 12 losing streak was extended to 16 games.
“We came in, knowing we were going to win … and playing to win,” Brown said. “But we played (the Cyclones’) game and didn’t play our game. We lost focus at the end.”
TU’s first points were scored on a safety as defensive end Brentom Todd dropped Iowa State running back Jeff Woody for a 3-yard loss in the end zone. Ja’Terian Douglas’ 1-yard touchdown run and Thomas Roberson’s 6-yard TD reception gave Tulsa its 16-7 advantage – and then the Hurricane offense began to misfire.
During the next Tulsa possession, Burnham caught a Green pass for what would have been a Hurricane first down. Cyclone linebacker Jake Knott belted Burnham, causing a fumble that was recovered by Iowa State at midfield.
On that single play, momentum shifted permanently to the Cyclones.
Instead of Tulsa driving to a possible 23-7 lead, Iowa State got a 5-yard touchdown run from Jantz and pulled to within 16-14.
Tulsa’s next eight possessions ended with seven punts and an interception.
“All of a sudden, we’re spinning in mud,” Blankenship said. “All the while, the defense is struggling to get off the field. We certainly missed some opportunities on both sides.”
Jantz, who in seven starts last season completed only 53 percent of his passes, was extremely effective against TU. He was 32-of-45 passing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted one time, when TU safety Marco Nelson plucked a tipped pass during the opening period.
“I saw a lot of things out of Steele Jantz today, and I think a lot of people in Jack Trice Stadium saw the same thing,” Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said. “I saw a very composed quarterback.”
In spite of so much offensive dysfunction, TU trailed 31-23 with slightly more than two minutes left to play. The Hurricane still had an opportunity to drive, score, get a two-point conversion and send the contest to overtime.
Instead, a Green pass was intercepted by Iowa State safety Deon Bloomfield, whose 51-yard return led directly to Shontrelle Johnson’s 5-yard touchdown run that buried the Hurricane.
On 83 offensive snaps, Tulsa managed only 358 total yards. The total would have been even lower if not for a 77-yard, fourth-quarter run by Trey Watts. TU capitalized with Green’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Keyarris Garrett with 9:12 remaining.
On three subsequent possessions, TU netted only 13 yards. Iowa State finished with 441 total yards and got a 120-yard rushing performance from Johnson.
On Sunday, as they begin preparations for next Saturday’s Conference USA opener against visiting Tulane, Blankenship and his assistants will study videotape of Tulsa-Iowa State.
“I think we’re going to see that it’s better than it feels,” Blankenship said. “Right now, it doesn’t feel very good.”