Lang emerges as potential workhorse RB on back of designed QB runs

Oct 5, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Johnnie Lang (4) runs the football against the TCU Horned Frogs at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — While Iowa State’s rushing attack still remains fluid following a 49-24 win over TCU on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, we might be finally starting to get some answers.

Largely bolstered by 102 rushing yards and a pair of scores from quarterback Brock Purdy, the Cyclones put together one of their best days on the ground this season accumulating 189 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry against the Horned Frogs.

The day’s biggest surprise was redshirt sophomore tailback Johnnie Lang breaking through for 72 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. It was undoubtedly the best game Lang has played in an Iowa State uniform.

“I thought Johnnie Lang played a great game, maybe his best game to date,” head coach Matt Campbell said after the game. “Johnnie’s got a lot of potential, a lot of ability. He’s practicing at a really consistent rate and showing that on the football field now.”

The Palmetto, Fla. native has potentially emerged to be the Cyclones’ backfield workhorse after working through running back competition that started all the way back in the spring. Even still on Saturday, freshmen Jirehl Brock and Breece Hall got opportunities to show what they were capable of combining for 10 yards on five carries.

Iowa State even got back-up quarterback Re-al Mitchell involved in the offense when he took his one carry on a designed run for nine yards.

It is not really a requirement that Iowa State has someone emerge to be a dominant back in each and every game. Some of Campbell’s best teams at Toledo featured a multi-headed monster of backs capable of making plays.

Lang’s performance on Saturday still gives some confidence in the idea that when it is time for the Cyclones to pick up a few yards on a third or fourth down, there is someone in the running backs room capable of making it happen.

That most definitely could not be said going into the matchup with TCU.

Sure, it took an added emphasis on the designed quarterback run to make it happen, because, at the end of the day, it was Purdy’s ability to create big-plays with his legs, including a 44-yard scamper in the first quarter that set up the team’s first touchdown, that truly sprung Iowa State’s rushing attack and created more lanes for Lang against one of the conference’s best defenses.

But, for the first time this season, we are starting to see some clarity in the picture of Iowa State’s best backfield.

“(Purdy)’s a guy that gives us the ability to be a dual-threat football team,” Campbell said. “I think when they overload in the run game, he’s got the ability to take some heat off of the running backs and I thought he did that when he needed to.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.