AMES — ISU coach Paul Rhoads settled on one word to define what needs to be displayed by his team in the wake of Saturday’s dispiriting 34-14 season-opening loss to North Dakota State.
“Urgency,” Rhoads said. “That’s exactly what I told our staff. It’s exactly what I told our players. Urgency in getting your job done. That’s in a 100 percent rate of speed at executing your responsibility — whether it’s a fit, whether it’s a tackle, whether it’s a route, whether it’s a cut-off block. Everybody needs a little bit more urgency in coaching and playing.”
Cue Saturday’s 11 a.m. “challenge” against 20th-ranked Kansas State.
Same site as last week: Jack Trice Stadium.
Same spot on your TV dial: Fox Sports 1.
“Obviously nothing’s going to be given to you,” said Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson, who threw for 151 yards and two interceptions against the three-time defending FCS champion Bison. “We’ve got quite a tough schedule, especially with this week coming up. It’s a great team that we’re about to play. … We’ll have to be able to give our ‘A’ game on Saturday.”
That didn’t happen last Saturday, as injuries to leading receiver Quenton Bundrage (who is out for the season with a torn ACL) and standout center Tom Farniok (left MCL strain, expected to play this week) appeared to derail early success the offense produced en route to a 14-0 lead.
Farniok’s loss is as mental as it is physical.
He’s one of three senior captains and, as Richardson noted, knows every aspect of the offense — not just line calls — better than anyone but the man who lines up right behind him.
“He’s obviously one of the smartest players we have on the field,” said Richardson, who also rushed for a team-best 54 yards. “He knows all the checks, know’s our offense very well. … It’s tough to lose that head guy on your offensive line, but we can’t fold when something like that happens. Obviously we all want Tom out there, but any time that he can’t be out there we’ve still got to be able to make the checks and be mentally strong out there.”
Rhoads said backup Jamison Lalk played well in Farniok’s absence, but “you can’t help but be affected and unfortunately it was in a negative way.
“It s an adversity lesson that we have to learn to overcome,” Rhoads added.
Therein lies the push for greater urgency.
Few will feel it more than the guys who previously backed up Bundrage: true freshman Allen Lazard and fellow four-star recruit and transfer D’Vario Montgomery.
Lazard showed big-play ability, as expected, Saturday, speeding downfield to catch a dart from Richardson that led to a 48-yard gain and ISU’s final points against NDSU.
He also stuck his hand up to try to snare a high sideline pass, tipping it to a Bison defender.
“Obviously he played great for a true freshman,” Richardson said. “We had hiccups here and there with that unfortunate pass there on the sideline, but that’s stuff that’s going to happen. I thought he played great for his first start ever and he’s hopefully going to make a lot more of those plays.”
Urgency on the defensive side of the ball should curtail the number of wrong place, wrong time instances that led to several of NDSU’s explosive plays.
Rhoads said his defenders “tackled well,” but found themselves out of position too frequently — in part because of a failure to consistently get off blocks.
“There weren’t missed tackles on the plays,” Rhoads said. “That’s the problem. It was a problem of guys not biding where they were supposed to be to have an opportunity to tackle. That’s what we have to have fixed.”
That takes an unwavering sense of urgency and highly-enhanced precision, for starters.
Lots to fix.
Lots to play for.
“There isn’t anybody (on this staff) that’s beaten Kansas State as an Iowa State University personnel member,” said Rhoads, whose team lost 41-7 to the Wildcats last season. “That has our attention, too. Something we’d like to achieve — and to do it against them when they’re ranked top-20 in the country would be even better.”
MISSED “Q”: Rhoads said Bundrage understandably took the news of his torn ACL extremely hard. “Really looking forward to not only a big-play season but a very consistent season from himself and to have that taken away on the fourth play of the football game is certainly disheartening for the young man,” Rhoads said of Bundrage, who tied an ISU record for receivers with nine touchdown receptions last season. “I feel for him. He was in a lot of pain Saturday night, physically. A lot of pain mentally right now.”
Receiver Dondre Daley, who recorded a single-game career high with five catches Saturday, said he looked to Bundrage as a mentor — and still does. “We’ll get coached up by him,” Daley said. “I look up to him a lot.”
CRAMPS “Qs”: Rhoads said an illness that affected some of his players was one of the reasons there were serious cramping issues Saturday in the loss to the Bison. “Anytime you’re letting stuff out of your body you’re gong to dehydrate yourself, so that played into it,” he said. “That’s just the kind of thing that you can’t do anything about. It was a hot day, which contributed to that, and way too many long play drives that left us out there (as a defense) for an extended period of time. That also contributed to it.”