By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tulsa made the most of its second chance.
Trey Watts rushed for 149 yards, Alex Singleton ran for three scores and Tulsa avenged a season-opening loss to Iowa State with a 31-17 victory in the rainy Liberty Bowl on Monday.
The Golden Hurricane (11-3) posted the second 11-win season in school history. Tulsa, which has the smallest enrollment of any Football Bowl Subdivision program, also finished 11-3 in 2008.
Iowa State (6-7) rallied to beat Tulsa 38-23 on Sept. 1, but the Golden Hurricane put together the comeback in the rematch. Tulsa trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams had changed quite a bit since that regular-season opener.
Iowa State’s Steele Jantz, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score in the season opener, lost his starting job to redshirt freshman Sam Richardson. The Cyclones’ leading rusher (Shontrelle Johnson) and top tackler (Jake Knott) from the Sept. 1 game missed the Liberty Bowl with injuries.
Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson, a three-year starter, was serving a three-game suspension during the last meeting with Iowa State. Jackson sacked Richardson on consecutive plays late in the first quarter Monday and forced a fumble in the game’s closing minutes.
After going 6 for 7 for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, Richardson was 4 of 14 for 15 yards with an interception the rest of the game. Iowa State didn’t pick up its initial first down of the second half until after Jantz replaced Richardson with under 13 minutes left in the game.
The teams combined for 38 points in the first 19 minutes of the game before settling into more of a defensive struggle.
Iowa State capitalized on big plays to take an early 17-7 lead in front of a partisan crowd. About 80 percent of the fans were dressed in Iowa State cardinal-and-gold.
After Edwin Arceo capped Iowa State’s opening series with a 33-yard field goal, Jeremy Reeves put the Cyclones in front 10-0 with a 31-yard interception return midway through the first quarter.
Tulsa answered with Alex Singleton’s 2-yard touchdown dive, but Richardson connected with tight end Ernst Brun for a 69-yard score on Iowa State’s ensuing possession.
The Golden Hurricane got back in the game by relying on its ground attack and pass rush, two strengths that helped Tulsa win the Conference USA championship.
Richardson, making his second career start, didn’t have nearly as much time to throw after the first quarter. After moving the ball at will in the opening period, Iowa State’s offense did virtually nothing right the rest of the day. Iowa State missed a field goal and committed three turnovers in the final three quarters.
The Golden Hurricane took the lead for good with a pair of touchdown runs — an 8-yarder from quarterback Cody Green and a 2-yarder from Singleton — in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Tulsa extended the lead to 28-17 in the third quarter on Singleton’s 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal.
Singleton’s three scores gave him a school-record 24 touchdown runs this season.