AMES — ISU quarterback Sam Richardson still draws power from the fond memory.
The junior’s near-perfect performance coming off the bench two years ago at Kansas cemented bowl eligibility for his team — and served as a foundation for the sense of confidence he’s continually trying to build higher.
“I was pretty pumped,” said Richardson, who is battling a shoulder injury, but said he’ll be fine to start his ninth straight game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Lawrence, Kansas-based venue that launched his Cyclone career. “A little bit nervous, but it was just kind of taking the game as it came to me.”
Whether Richardson is healthy enough to go — and there have been rumors circulating to the contrary, the practice of gleaning strength from past successes should spread team-wide as the last third of the season swings into view.
“It’s just that positive feeling you have going into it that helps your preparation and carries over into your performance,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said.
Last Saturday’s 59-14 body blow delivered by No. 16 Oklahoma demands a vigorous response. It’s required if ISU (2-6, 0-5) is to close the 2014 season on anything but a down note, and it starts against the only other team that’swinlessin Big 12 play.
Must win? Just win — and go from there.
“There’s nothing that needs to be said behind any closed doors,” center Tom Farniok said. “We’ve just got to play our game. We’ve just got execute. We’ve just got to play better and everyone knows it. There’s no big secret to anything. We’ve just got to do better.”
On defense, that includes easing yet more players with little to no BIg 12 experience into the starting lineup.
This week, that will be Kane Seeley or Alton Meeks filling the MIKE linebacker spot previously manned by Jevohn Miller, who suffered a torn ACL two plays into the loss to the Sooners.
And while both are in the early stages of development, they can’t play like it against the offense-challenged Jayhawks, regardless of which one ends up seeing the field more.
“They’ve got work to do,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said.
They’re doing it, Seeley noted, but the broad learning curve has led to extra cramming in the film room.
“Knowing exactly my keys, knowing exactly what’s going on out there,” Seeley said of his key areas for improvement. “I’ve got to know pre-snap, I’ve got to understand my reads; just do my best, because I know I want to be out there in the mix.”
The offense felt it performed far below its standards against Oklahoma, which is why they took the practice field “embarrassed and angry,” as offensive coordinator Mark Mangino noted this week.
So failure in the form of dropped passes and misplaced throws, as well as success, can motivate — if the proper approach is taken to picking up the pieces.
“You should never get beaten like (last Saturday) and it’s happened a couple toom any times this year, but obviously you’ve got to rebound,” said Richardson, who completed just 38 percent of his passes (15 of 40) last week. “There’s no forgiveness in this league. You’ve got to go get a win.”
If Richardson’s able to make his 19th career start Saturday, he’ll carry lessons from past triumphs onto the field. Especially those learned after trotting on to the field when Steele Jantz suffered a concussion Nov. 17, 2012 in Lawrence.
Richardson completed 19 of his final 20 passes while throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns that night. He also rushed for a score.
“It was his shot,” said Farniok, who will make his 44th career start. “He did well with it. All he did was execute. It’s the simplest and hardest thing to do.”
After the game, Cyclone fans streamed to a corner of Memorial Stadium.
There was singing. Laughing. Slapping of shoulder pads.
“It’s something I continue to try to remember back to, just how easy that day was and kind of not getting caught up in the game of football, just playing it, enjoying it,” said Richardson, who’s tossed 13 touchdowns to three interceptions in the past six games. “I use that all the time, looking back at that type of game where it’s just easy, honestly. So I remember it pretty well, obviously my first time playing. It was fun.”
TRIBUNE, JENSEN STILL EXPECTED BACK: All indications during practice this week continue to point to the returns of starting cornerback Nigel Tribune (groin) and nose guard Brandon Jensen (knee). Jensen played briefly against Oklahoma. Tribune sat out that entire game.