Iowa State dominated Tulsa in the second half in the trenches -- and on the scoreboard.
Sam Richardson completed 26 of 41 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Wimberly ran for 137 yards on 19 carries to help Iowa State beat Tulsa 38-21 on Thursday night.
"That's all we talked about coming in was winning those battles and being the more physical team," Richardson said. "Their defense is a lot younger and we wore them down."
Jeff Woody had for three short scores, and the Cyclones took advantage of four Tulsa turnovers to improve to 1-2. Tulsa dropped to 1-3.
Tulsa quarterback Cody Green lost control twice on exchanges with a running back in the first half, then dropped a ball behind him attempting to pass on the first possession of the second half. He was replaced a series later by redshirt freshman Dane Evans, who failed to generate any offense. Green returned in the fourth quarter, throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Roberson before being intercepted on his next possession.
Green finished 18 of 31 for 237 yards with two touchdowns and the interception.
"Very disappointing," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. "We are not very good right now. We did not play well tonight and we've got a lot of work to do before we move into conference play."
Tulsa's third turnover led to a 28-yard touchdown drive capped by a 16-yard pass from Robertson to E.J. Bibbs that put Iowa State ahead to stay at 21-14. Woody's 1-yard run made it 28-14 late in the third quarter. Cole Netten added a 40-yard field goal as the Cyclones pushed it to 31-14.
After Tulsa cut it to 31-21 on Green's second touchdown pass, Iowa State dominated the final 8 minutes, scoring again on Woody's 3-yard run with 1:56 left.
"We've been working very hard and I think we've really improved," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "That's a lot of practices and a lot of maintaining focus to do what's right and improve and that's exactly what they did ... I thought the defense played very well. When you can hold Tulsa to 86 yards rushing that's exceptional."
The evenly played first half ended knotted at 14. Green led Tulsa on two touchdown drives, the second of which put Tulsa ahead 14-7 when Roberson, playing in his first game this year after recovering from a concussion, snatched a 9-yard touchdown pass away from defensive back P.J. Harris in the back of the end zone.
Iowa State came right back, moving 66 yards in 1:11 to tie it on a 10-yard strike from Richardson to Jarvis West 15 seconds before the half.
"That was a huge momentum shift," Rhoads said. "We weren't even going to go with the two-minute drill, but we had a nice play early in the drive and just went with it."
Iowa State took a 7-0 lead on a 13-play, 89-yard drive capped by Woody's 1-yard blast. Tulsa tied it on Trey Watts' 1-yard run.
"When you have four turnovers against even a decent team, you're really going to struggle," Blankenshiip said. "We've got to stop putting the ball on the ground. Those are unforced errors."
Iowa State rolled up 434 yards offense, including 179 rushing while limiting Tulsa to 374.