Iowa State and Tulsa traded roles in the rematch of their September game, as the Cyclones were the ones to put up an early lead, only to lose as the Golden Hurricane scored 24 unanswered points to gain a measure of revenge. The massive amount of Cyclone fans who made the trip to Memphis made the stadium look like a home game were rewarded with an anemic performance from the team.
The offense was on point from the get go, with a flu-ridden Sam Richardson marching the team down the field for a field goal on the opening drive, then throwing a beautiful long TD to Ernst Brun as part of a 6/7, 114 yard, 1 TD start. Richardson would eventually fade, and was replaced by former starter Steele Jantz in what seemed like Iowa State's millionth QB switch of the season. Steele fared no better, chipping in with an interception and another untouched fumble, the final (and fitting) play of his ISU career. Courtney Messingham will take a lot of flack from Cyclone fans for yet another game where it appears he came out with a solid gameplan, but simply had no answers for the opponent's defensive adjustments.
Meanwhile, the defense looked good early with Jeremy Reeves' pick six in the first quarter, but quickly lost steam and started missing tackles all over the field. Led by the three headed monster of Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas, and Alex Singleton, Tulsa racked up 311 rushing yards, many of it after contact. An armless Jake Knott could have tackled just about as well as most of Iowa State's defenders in the 2nd half. On the drive that basically put the game out of reach for the sputtering Cyclone offense, the defense actually made a 3rd down stop, only to have a horrible Cleyon Laing personal foul give the Golden Hurricane new life (and an eventual TD). Paul Rhoads was visibly displeased.
While the Cyclones have certainly overachieved during the season under Paul Rhoads, their bowl game performances have been sorely disappointing. It's hard to complain about a bowl game in a year that the team was once again picked by most experts for 3-4 wins, but another ugly bowl loss will make for a bittersweet offseason for players and fans alike.