Mike Warren served as the headliner. Just call Daniel Burton his best supporting actor.
The Iowa State running game finally showed signs of life in an otherwise stomach-souring 30-23 double overtime loss at Toledo and it’s no coincidence Warren racked up 126 of 207 rushing yards in Burton’s first game back from knee issues.
“He certainly did a nice job and going into the season we thought he would be a main cog for that offensive line and he’d be main cog for the running game,” Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said of Burton in today’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “Daniel’s one of our most powerful offensive lineman and if you’re going to have a successful running game like we did Saturday night then you’ve got to get some push. It’s not just about being on the next guy, it’s about moving him and opening things up.”
The Cyclones’ running game renaissance — along with another stern defensive effort — put the team in a position to move to 2-1, but Cole Netten missed a 32-yard field goal from the left hash as regulation ended and the Rockets made more plays in the extra sessions.
As for why or how Netten ended up kicking what could have been a game winner from that spot? Rhoads wasn’t going there during the teleconference.
“He was lined up in a position to make the kick,” he said tersely.
So many things went right for ISU on the stat sheet:
Number of offensive plays? 92 to 62 in favor of the Cyclones.
Total offense? 481 yards to 309.
Time of possession? A 16 1/2-minute advantage.
Unfortunately, as we also know, ISU also ended up with a distinct edge in an unfavorable category.
The Cyclones were whistled for a staggering 14 penalties for 113 yards. Toledo, eight for 57.
So maybe the timing of the only “bye” week of the season is propitious — a time to regroup, refocus and recharge in advance of the 11 a.m. Oct. 3 Big 12 season opener against Kansas.
“We’re actually pretty excited about what the week is going to provide for us,” Rhoads said. “We’re going to rest some guys that have some nagging things, but we fully expect to get a number of players back for the Kansas game and that really excited us. We think Sam (B.) Richardson, our cornerback, has a chance to play. We think we’re going to get (linebacker) Brian Mills back. We think we’re going to get (defensive end) Gabe Luna back. We think we’re going to get (safety) Qujuan Floyd back. So we’re going go into the Kansas game a lot healthier than we’ve been the first three.”
Burton’s return to good health clearly could be a game-changer for the running attack, which will continue to thrive at least against the Jayhawks, who gave up an average of 225.5 yards on the ground in losses to South Dakota State and Memphis.
“Daniel graded out very high and he’s part of the reason we ran it (well),” Rhoads said after noting that they’ll limit Burton’s activities this week to further enhance his health. “You wouldn’t say his absence was the complete reason why we weren’t running it well, though, either.”
Northern Iowa and Iowa had something to do with that.
But now the Cyclones know what they have in the backfield — and the full complement of guys who do the dirty work for runners such as Warren, who Rhoads said “potentially” could become the featured back.
“Mike had an extremely positive week of practice and gave us a lot of confidence going into the game and then he went right back out there and backed that up with his performance,” Rhoads said. “So you’ve got a chance of seeing more Mike Warren in the future. We’re doing some things with Joshua Thomas and Trever Ryen in part of our packages and Tyler (Brown) hasn’t gone anywhere. Tyler is going to benefit from this open week and get a knee nursed up that’s been bothering him a little bit, but nice to have four guys with the ability to contribute there.”
*** Rhoads said backup quarterback Joel Lanning did a "really nice job" as a passer, runner and receiver while enjoying enhanced playing time. The takeaway: Expect to see the strong-armed sophomore from Ankeny in that wild card role the rest of the season.
"Came in and was poised and executed," Rhoads said. "Ran the ball hard. Threw a nice ball on his completion and obviously showed great concentration on the catch that he made."
Lanning ran three times for 14 yards, completed his only pass attempt for five yards and made a nine-yard reception for a first down.
*** Ken Lynn‘s back at cornerback. The senior switched to wide receiver before the season, but returned to the defensive backfield when starting cornerback Sam B. Richardson sustained a pre-game injury against Iowa. "He’ll remain there for the season," Rhoads said.