AMES — Iowa State center Tom Farniok’s pushed his once-undersized and now all-Big 12 caliber 6-4, 301-pound frame to its outer limits for four seasons.
He’s set to start for the 45th time in 47 possible games after redshirting in 2009 and enters Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. matchup against Texas Tech with two simple wishes.
No. 1 (obviously): Win.
The Cyclones (2-7, 0-6 Big 12) can drop the Red Raiders (3-7, 1-6) to the conference cellar if they manage to record an elusive ‘W.’
His other hope? He’ll probably have to wait until West Virginia comes to town Nov. 29 to have a chance to see it reach fruition.
“I want to play in a snow game,” Farniok said. “I think it would be a ton of fun to just be playing in a blizzard. I think it would be awesome.”
When the program’s baseline goal of playing in — and winning — a bowl game becomes mathematically unattainable for the second straight season, it’s the little things that keep one going.
And in this case, even the weather can’t cooperate. Temperatures are expected to warm up into the 40s on Saturday, so snow’s almost certainly out, but wish No. 1 remains solidly in play.
Tech’s riding a three-game losing streak and could play either Davis Webb or Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The Red Raiders led Oklahoma 21-7 in the third quarter last Saturday before crumbling en route to a 42-30 loss. Mahomes, a freshman, played in that game, racking up 393 yards through the air and four touchdowns.
“Their game plan is not changed when it comes to it,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads, who led his time to bowls in three of his first four seasons, but faces a second straight year without one. “They’re going to throw the ball and against us, They’re going to work to run the ball, too, with our numbers being what they are as a run defense. But whether it’s Mahomes or Davis Webb is back in, it’s the same throws, it’s the same routes, it’s the same combinations.”
Cyclone cornerback Sam E. Richardson, who leads the team with three interceptions, echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I think it’s more of just understanding their route concepts,” Richardson said. “Their offense is not going to change. The players might, but the offense is going to be the same.”
That’s pretty formidable.
The Red Raiders trail only Baylor in the conference pecking order in terms of passing yards per game at 327.6. The defense, however, remains porous, ranking last in the Big 12 in both points allowed (41.6 per game) and yards yielded (504.5 per game).
“It will be a good test for us but I think we’ll do well versus them,” said ISU quarterback Sam B. Richardson, who is expected to start after missing one game with a separated shoulder. “We’ll see.”
Farniok said Richardson’s return should help revive the offense, which has scored just 14 points in each of the Cyclones’ past two losses.
“He just brings a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience,” Farniok said. “Some of the checks, the things he does, they come with experience. Grant (Rohach) didn’t have that experience. No knock on him. It’s just the way it is because Sam’s played a lot more football than him. He’s a little older, a little smarter. It just brings that comfort element back to the offense because he’s been our guy all year. When he’s down, it makes a difference.”
And for the record, Richardson is relieved a warm-up’s slated to come this weekend.
“I’m not looking for a blizzard,” he said, smiling.
His main focus now circles back to Farniok’s No. 1 goal. No bowl doesn’t mean positive momentum can’t be generated for 2015 — and snow or no snow, seniors such as Farniok should be sent off with some wins after they endured another season that included too few of them.
“I’m big on the seniors and obviously when I’m a senior I want to be sent out the right way,” said Richardson, whose thrown for 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. “Obviously not getting to a bowl, it hurts, but getting wins here the last three weeks of the season — we’re kind of playing for them and ending the season off in the right way.”