AMES — One word came to Todd Sturdy’s mind when describing the wild and frantic first couple days of Texas game week.
“Busy,” ISU’s new offensive coordinator said Tuesday night.
That’s one way to put it. Sturdy took the reins of the Cyclones’ offense when Mark Mangino was let go abruptly following a Monday morning impasse with head coach Paul Rhoads. Sturdy’s been both a head coach (12 seasons at NAIA St. Ambrose) and an OC before (five seasons at Eastern Washington and Washington State).
His promotion gleaned universal praise from ISU’s offensive players, who hope to pierce a tough Longhorns defense in Saturday’s 6 p.m. homecoming game. The Cyclones (2-5, 1-3) hope to halt a three-game skid as Texas (3-4, 2-2) seeks to build a three-game win streak.
“There’s a lot more energy, definitely,” said Cyclone standout running back Mike Warren, who was recently added to the Doak Walker Award watch list. “And everything has picked up a lot. It’s just really fast-paced when he’s out there.”
Sturdy said he’s been impressed by new starting quarterback Joel Lanning’s play in the first two days of practice since he ascended to the top of the position.
“He’s doing a great job and it’s been a process throughout the season,” Sturdy said. “The great thing is we’ve had packages in where he’s been able to go in, get tackled, say the cadence, have somebody over there other than the scout team and all those kind of things. That’s part of the learning curve and the process and he’s been able to do that all year long and it’s helped him and it’s helped our offense, it’s helped our team, it’s helped Joel prepare him for this opportunity that he’s got right now.”
Lanning has completed 19 of 29 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns this season. He’s also rushed into the end zone and noted that his familiarity with Sturdy the past two-plus seasons makes him an ideal mentor.
“He’s taught me everything, pretty much,” Lanning said Monday.
Sturdy said the offense won’t change drastically. The revived running game will still be tapped early and often — and as Lanning’s playbook expands, he’ll be expected to make more winning plays, as well.
“(He’s) very excited,” Sturdy said of Lanning. “Just like he is every time he gets to go play. He loves to play.”
Sturdy loves to coach. Rhoads reiterated that there’s a heightened energy he’s detected in practice the past couple of days.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say there’s a rallying, I think the guys are excited about where we’re at right now and what we’ve come off the field the last couple games — aspects of our performance,” Rhoads said. “And with five games to go, I think they’re excited about what this football team can yet accomplish. So I think the overall energy that I sense in two days of practice is exciting to us as a staff and to them as a team.”
Sturdy said his experience as an offensive coordinator helps as he quickly moprhs back into one. He said he’ll apply “his stamp” to the offense “very carefully.”
“We’re in the middle of the season and we’ve got a good offense,” Sturdy said. “We just have to continue to get better at doing the things we’re doing. We’re doing a great job running the football. There’s obviously some areas that we would like to get better at, but you can’t put the wishbone in or whatever it’s going to be. That’s just not the case. It’s very similar to the things I’ve done in the past. I’m very comfortable with it. You’ve got to put your stamp on it a little bit, but you can’t get too crazy with it either.”