MEMPHIS, Tenn. | Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said Sunday he would not have freshman quarterback Sam Richardson, making his second career start, on a short leash during the 54th AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
And when Richardson got off to a red-hot start as the Cyclones jumped to a 17-7 lead on Tulsa in the first quarter, there wasn't a single person amongst the 53,687 in attendance at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium that believed Richardson wouldn't finish the game.
But what wasn't know is Richardson became extremely sick overnight and eventually lost strenghth and effectiveness as the game wore on.
"He looked dazed because he was sick," Rhoads said while responding to a question on if Richardson was shook up after a hard hit in the second quarter. "It was a gritty performance by a young man who was throwing up all night and having other problems with his health do to a flu bug that came on late after dinner last night.
"So looking dazed had nothing to do with the hit he took. I commend Sam and the decision to go as long (with him) is because he is a good football player. I didn't want to disrupt the rythum of our football team that he was providing for us, but there became a time he didn't have strength to finish up."
Richardson hit six of his first seven passes, including a perfect strike to Ernst Brun Jr. for a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
But after throwing for 114 yards in the opening 15 minutes, Richardson was just 3-of-14 for 15 yards before Steele Jantz replaced him in the fourth quarter.
The Cyclones, to a man, were behind the decision to go with Richardson at quarterback despite the redshirt-freshman being ill.
"I give him props for giving it a go," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "Today he looked bad, but last night was even worse. The effort he gave today, you can't ask more of Sam.
"He is going to have a great career at Iowa State. He is the type of person we want to build this program around, people who will give it up no matter what condition they are in. I commend him for giving his all and trying to give us the opportunity to win."
GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Iowa State tied the Liberty Bowl record for points in the first quarter with 17, tying a record shared by Virginia Tech (1968) and Alabama (1976) ... Brun Jr's 69-yard touchdown reception was the seventh longest in Liberty Bowl history. Brun's 104-yard, 4-catch effort was just the third time in 13 bowl games ISU has had a 100-yard receiver ... Jeremy Reeves' 31-yard interception return for touchdown was the 10th in the 54-year history of the Liberty Bowl.
CYCLONE NATION: The loss stings even more for Iowa State's players because of the support they received from an estimated 25,000 Cyclone fans that attended the game.
"Obviously we wanted to win for them for just making the trip," Klein said.
"It hurts to lose the game because of all the support they showed us while we were here in Memphis," Brun Jr. added.