AMES – Underdogs?
Yeah, thanks again, Vegas.
It doesn’t matter if bookmakers ever start giving Iowa State credit, the Cyclones will gladly keep winning. On Saturday, Iowa State handled a solid Tulsa squad, 38-23, in its season opener.
The Cyclones (1-0) outscored the Golden Hurricanes 31-7 after the first quarter.
“That’s a good football team we beat this afternoon,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “That’s a team that’s going to win a lot of games.”
If the Cyclones play like they did on Saturday, they will too. In Paul Rhoads’ Iowa State coaching career, his team has only been favored eight times. In those three plus seasons, the Cyclones have won 19 times.
After a jittery first quarter, Iowa State dominated. Linebacker Jake Knott sparked the onslaught. With Tulsa leading 16-7 and on the move, Knott forced a crucial fumble.
The Golden Hurricanes never recovered.
“In the game of football, you get a lot of momentum shifts,” fellow linebacker Jeremiah George said. “Jake is one of those players who are quick to help you grab that momentum. That forced fumble was huge.
“It’s amazing what him and A.J. (Klein) can do, it really is.”
Right on cue, the offense came to life. Steele Jantz spearheaded the Iowa State attack.
The senior accounted for the Cyclones’ first three touchdowns, including a second quarter toss to Ernst Brun. On the play, Jantz waited for Brun to clear the linebackers and made a brilliant touch throw to give Iowa State a 21-16 lead.
Jantz finished 32-of-45 passing with 281 yards and two touchdowns. The signal caller added a touchdown on the ground.
“I saw a lot of things from Steele Jantz today,” Rhoads said. “A lot people in Jack Trice Stadium saw the same things. I saw a very composed quarterback. I saw a quarterback making good decisions. I saw a guy who the look in his eyes on the sideline.”
After the Cyclones took a 24-16 lead into halftime, it was Shontrelle Johnson’s turn to shine. The junior rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown after the break.
An offensive line that lost veteran starters Hayworth Hicks and Kelechi Osemele didn’t miss a beat. The unit continually opened up holes for Johnson and James White in the second half, who both scored touchdowns after halftime.
Iowa State totaled 160 yards on the ground Saturday, and tallied 441 yards of total offense.
“I don’t often recognize individuals in the locker room, but it was great to see (Shontrelle) back.” Rhoads said. “He’s a special player. He runs the ball violently. He runs the ball with great passion. He’s a weapon for our football team.”
Playing with a lead, the defense started to be the aggressor. Tulsa quarterback Cody Green started the game 10-of-13 passing. He completed just 13 of his last 36 passes after that.
Credit a stellar secondary and a defense that was able to get pressure with their front four. The Cyclones sacked Green just twice, but the pressure forced numerous bad throws, including an interception by Deon Broomfield to seal the victory.
“We were a lot calmer (after the first quarter),” George said. “This defense is very close. We are accountable and make sure we are accountable.”
An Iowa team that struggled to beat Northern Illinois is next on the schedule. The Hawkeyes are likely to be favored inside Kinnick Stadium, but then again, when did that ever matter to Rhoads and company?