AMES — Renewed success for Iowa State’s running game hinged on the sound execution of a simple play.
Yes, tailback Aaron Wimberly‘s healthier — though still not 100 percent — and showed it by racking up 110 yards rushing yards on 14 carries in Saturday’s 48-45 loss at Texas. Sure, the offensive line blocked well as the Cyclones fielded a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season in Austin.
But speed and skill only told part of the story in ISU’s most prolific performance on the ground since last November’s comeback win at West Virginia.
Scheme loomed large, too.
"Mark (Mangino) put us in a good place," Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said Tuesday night.
How so? By hitting on a play that hadn’t been very successful until Saturday.
"We have a play where the center blocks back and the guard folds around," said Rhoads, whose team (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) is in the midst of its third and final bye week of the season. "We gained a lot of yards against our defense in training camp, but that play has been average at best if not ineffective for six games. But Texas didn’t have enough people in there. So that very same play was a lot more wide open than it had been. It didn’t change, there was just less bodies to block.”
That allowed Wimberly to hit surprisingly large holes at breakneck speed, which helped form a balanced offensive attack that compiled a season-high 524 total yards along with the 38 of the 45 points.
The Cyclones hadn’t produced more than 339 yards in a single game until going for 454 in the 37-30 win over Toledo.
Mixing in high tempo helped ignite that outburst. One simple play added to the incendiary mix Saturday — and fueled optimism that the once sporadic offense can become a consistent strength as the season winds down.
"I think it’s just a continual — it’s working with what we think we’re going to get and I think last week we knew what we were going to get for the most part," ISU quarterback Sam Richardson said. "They didn’t give us many varied looks, so we rolled with what we thought we were going to get and that’s how it turned out on Saturday. We obviously had some success.”
More is needed, of course, but fielding an offense that’s capable of carving up one of the nation’s top defenses in Texas clearly breeds optimism for what lays ahead.
"I definitely feel comfortable," said Wimberly, who entered Saturday averaging 3.1 yards per carry. "Everybody’s feeling comfortable in what they’re doing."
The offense was mired in inconsistency until week six. Now weeks seven through 12 could at least make for an exciting and interesting ride.
"We know what we can do and what we’re capable of," said Wimberly, who missed the Toledo game with a sprained right ankle. "We’re just trying to push forward and do big things.”