Williams: A Liberty Bowl Letdown

Memphis, Tenn. – An estimated 25 thousand Iowa State fans made the trip to the 2012 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. What they saw from the Cyclones was a non-existent running game. A quarterback change. An inconsistent field goal kicker. An anemic offense and an exhausted defense.

Sound familiar?

Iowa State’s 31-17 loss to Tulsa on New Years Eve was a microcosm of the entire 2012 season.

The game started off like a dream. The Cyclones jumped out to an early 10-0 lead after a Jeremy Reeves pick six of Cody Green with 7:44 to play in the first quarter. Then Tulsa tacked on a touchdown, but Iowa State responded via a 69-yard Sam Richardson touchdown pass to Ernst Brun

After that, Tulsa scored the game’s next 24 points and just like that – the Cyclones ended 2012 with a record of 6-7 and what appears to be another quarterback controversy on the horizon. Iowa State freshman Sam Richardson, who started the game by completing six of his first seven pass attempts, was pulled in favor of senior Steele Jantz early in the fourth quarter.

Richardson, who after the game Paul Rhoads said played with the flu, recorded a very modest 10-for-21 for 129 yards, a touchdown/interception stat line. And no, Iowa State’s Liberty Bowl hail mary, a move to Jantz, wasn’t any better. The senior ended his up and down career as a Cyclone with a 4-for-7, one interception, one fumble performance.

What else went right and wrong? Here’s your recap.


A.J. Klein – His team lost and his performance is hard to appreciate, but that was a hell of a way to go out for A.J. Klein. Iowa State’s All-Big 12 linebacker recorded a career-high 19 tackles, which tied a Liberty Bowl record, in his last game as a Cyclone.

It’s one of those things….No. 47 was everywhere, a mad man. But if a linebacker records 19 tackles, it isn’t always a good thing for your team either. 

Still, he’s one of the all-time greats to ever wear the Cardinal and Gold and I’m looking forward to watching him in the NFL. 


Fans – The 2012 Liberty Bowl was proof that having five times the amount of fans as your opposition at a postseason event really means nothing once the teams hit the field.

Even so, Iowa State’s traveling performance this past week will be beneficial in the future. An estimated 25 thousand Cyclone fans made the trip to Memphis. That’s to Memphis, for the Liberty Bowl. How many of you would make a trip to San Diego or San Antonio in the future?

Bowl games are all about cash. Iowa State fans spent a lot of it on Beale St. over the last three days. Other, bigger bowls, will take note of this for the future, which is very bright. 

Bowl game – I know. I know. No moral victories. This program is past that point. I’m cool stance and agree 100 percent. But not many people outside of Ames, Iowa gave these Cyclones a prayer to go bowling back in July. Once again, those people were proven wrong.

There was nothing positive about this loss, but the 15 extra bowl practices are still a big plus. I’ll leave it at that.

Tulsa – America’s smallest division one football program is a good one, but you already knew this. We all did. But you don’t want to read about it.

Bill Blankenship is building something special in Conference USA. That’s why the Golden Hurricane are in “Three Up.” That and obviously, there wasn’t a lot of positives coming out of this one for Iowa State.

So now what?

Well, the Cyclones will take a little road trip to Tulsa next September. The Golden Hurricane will not leave your life for the next 10 months Cyclone Nation. 


Quarterback controversy – Get ready for another one. Full disclosure – regardless of what Sam Richardson did in this game, I really believe that Iowa State fans were going to be in for another long quarterback competition during the offseason. Freshman Grant Rohach is going to give Richardson and fellow veteran Jared Barnett everything that they want during spring ball and fall camp.

I found this tweet by former Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer worth posting…

Let the two young QBs battle it out. Find a starter, stay w/ them through good and bad.

I don’t know if Bret’s is right or wrong but considering whose name was on the tweet, I found it interesting.

I’m not down on Sam Richardson at all. He didn’t play well on the bowl game but like with Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett before him, No. 12 didn’t get much help. At all. Which brings us to…

Offensive line – It was non-existent for Iowa State, which all started up front. Iowa State’s leading rusher Shontrelle Johnson didn’t play in the game but it made no difference at all, proving once and for all that this is much more of an offensive line problem than that of the running backs. And it could be Iowa State’s entire scheme in general? Who really knows? You all have the offseason to debate that.

But to wrap up the Liberty Bowl, here’s what you need to know.

Iowa State ran for 98 yards on 28 attempts. Tulsa ran for 317 yards on 60 attempts.

The Golden Hurricane dominated the Cyclones at the line-of-scrimmage and that was the major difference in this game.

There are so many positives to look back on from the 2012 season, but a lot to work and improve on as well. That will happen over the offseason. 

Bad end to a great season – The 2012 Iowa State football season was full of ups and downs. The Cyclones swept another non-conference portion of its schedule. Attendance records were once again shattered. By gosh, we all had a lot of fun in 2012.

Unfortunately, bowl losses always leave a bad taste in the mouth of the fan. It’s the last thing you see from your team during that perspective season. It’s unavoidable and understandable. 

But I’d encourage all of you to step away from your keyboards and reflect on the year as a whole. Iowa State left some plays and probably some wins out on the field in 2012 but the future of this program is very bright. Don’t let one bad loss make you lose track of that.

I’ll be writing a lot more about 2012 over the next few weeks. 

If you’re reading this from Memphis, travel safely back to Iowa.