MEMPHIS, Tenn. - You could say Tulsa was in a rush to win the Liberty Bowl.
Rolling up 317 yards on the ground Monday and dominating the line of scrimmage after a shaky first quarter, the Golden Hurricane beat Iowa State 31-17 in a rematch of a regular-season game.
Tulsa (11-3) avenged a season-opening 38-23 defeat at Iowa State while winning for the fourth time in its last five bowl games.
Trey Watts rushed 25 times for 149 yards, consistently making yards after initial contact. Ja'Terian Douglas added 79 yards on eight attempts, while 275-pound Alex Singleton plowed his way to three touchdown runs - two of two yards and one of one yard.
"A much-improved football team," Cyclones coach Paul Rhodes said of Tulsa. "A lot of times, football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage and we weren't as physical today as they were. Give them full credit for what they did."
Singleton's one-yard score was on a fourth-and-goal play with 1:50 left in the third quarter, upping Tulsa's lead to 28-17 and giving him 25 touchdowns for the season. Nine of the 10 plays on the 76-yard drive were runs, including a 48-yarder by Watts.
But the game-changer was Cleyon Laing's late-hit penalty behind the play after the Cyclones had stopped Tulsa six yards shy of a first down on a third-and-12 snap. The penalty gave the Hurricane first-and-goal at the 8. It was the most critical of nine penalties on Iowa State, good for 84 yards.
"Just a bad, undisciplined penalty," Rhodes said. "That's not what we teach. It will be addressed."
Daniel Schwarz tacked on a 40-yard field goal with 12:49 left as Tulsa got its first bowl triumph against an opponent from one of the six conferences that receive automatic BCS berths.
"This is a real big deal for us," Hurricane coach Bill Blankenship said. "We don't get too many opportunities against a team of this caliber in a bowl. Iowa State's representing the Big 12, so we had to be ready to play."
The Cyclones (6-7) appeared ready to make it 2-for-2 against the Hurricane, forging a 17-7 first-quarter lead behind the impressive work of freshman quarterback Sam Richardson.
Making just his second start after replacing senior Steele Jantz, Richardson was 6-of-7 for 114 yards in the opening 15 minutes, including a beautifully thrown 69-yard scoring strike to tight end Ernst Brun.
But Richardson, who became ill after dinner Sunday night and wasn't at 100 percent, and Iowa State bogged down after that, generating just five first downs for the remainder of the game, including none in the third quarter.
"Coach tells us all the time, 'Just do your job.' They moved the ball real well in the first quarter, but after that, we did our job," Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson said.
Richardson finished 10-of-21 for 130 yards before being pulled in the fourth quarter for Jantz, who couldn't spark the offense off the bench.
Tulsa quarterback Cody Green was just 11-of-23 for 93 yards, throwing a first-quarter interception that Jeremy Reeves returned 31 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 Cyclone lead. But Green rushed for an eight-yard score on the first play of the second quarter and added a 19-yard run late in the game to help burn the clock.
The Hurricane boasted major advantages in time of possession - Tulsa had the ball for 35 minutes and 32 seconds, including 21:44 in the second half - and first downs (23-9) that properly reflected its ownership of the scrimmage line.
"We missed a lot of tackles," Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein said, "but they've got three good running backs."
While most of a huge Cyclone fan contingent estimated at 25,000 walked out of old Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and into a cold, rainy night, Tulsa players stormed the field and the stage for a jubilant on-field trophy presentation.
"We never wavered, not for a second," Watts said. "We made some mistakes, but we rallied and we played our game. We stuck with the game plan and it worked out." NOTES: Iowa State's last appearance in the Liberty Bowl was 40 years ago and members of that team, including College Football Hall of Fame coach Johnny Majors, were recognized during a break in the first quarter Monday. ... Tulsa's 24 unanswered points were the most in this bowl since Boise State did it in a wild 2004 victory over Louisville. ... The Cyclones' 17 first-quarter points tied a bowl record set by Virginia Tech (1968) and Alabama (1976), while the teams' 38 first-half points set a bowl mark.