Iowa State won their season opener 38-23 over Tulsa Saturday before a first game record crowd of 54,931 in Ames. The Cyclones scored first, and then gave up 16 straight points before taking back the lead and not giving it up. Coach Paul Rhoads said before the game the Huskies would be the toughest opening opponent in the three years he has been at I.S.U.
After the game , he said they proved him right. “Hats off to the players on both sides for the effort they gave,” Rhoads said. He says things were a “bit swampy” for a first game with the humidity, but he says both sides gave a great effort.
Steele Jantz started the game after regaining the job in fall camp and threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns. “I saw a very composed quarterback, I saw a quarterback making good decisions, I saw a guy who had the look in his eye on the sidelines,” Rhoads said. He says Jantz threw the longer balls better than he had in training camp and ran the ball well. “But he’s still learning, he has not started a bunch of games at this level and he’s still learning, which means there’s a lot of upside and I look forward to seeing that.”
Rhoads says the defense did not tackle well early in the game, but were able to adjust. “There were a number of things that Tulsa did offensively different than what we’ve seen on film. And the first game is always a challenge, you prepare for what you see, but you have any idea what they’ve done for eight months. So once we worked that out and started fitting things a little bit better, that’s when you saw a rise in our play,” Rhoads said.
Jantz said he tried to keep his emotions in check during the game and that helped his decision making. He said he tried to remember everything starts with the mental aspect of the game and he felt he did a good job with that, but said he still needs to get better.
Shontrelle Johnson returned from his injury last year to rush for 122 yards, and Jantz says with Johnson and his receivers, they have a lot of weapons on offense. “We do, but we also know it’s about great decision making and being smart out there, we’ve have a lot of weapons but so do other teams,” Jantz said.
Senior linebacker Jack Knott had 11 tackles and said after giving up 16 points to lose the lead, they defense turned things around and took back control of the game. “You know I think we just got used to the tempo in the offense, almost had to shake the cobwebs out a little bit. Their offense and defense was doing a great job…doing what they wanted. They made some adjustments and figured it out and that helped us a bunch,” Knott said.
Knott said they were able to keep Tulsa’s receivers in check for most of the game, and credited defensive coordinator Wally Burnham for coming up with a good scheme. “We had a really good game plan for them, and countless hours of watching film with him and just looking at the mannerisms of all their players and how they we were going to approach their routes and how they were going to do that. We had some good cooperages on them, and when you do that, it’s hard for them to make big plays,” Knott said.
The Cyclones go on the road next Saturday to face in-state rival Iowa.