MANHATTAN, Kan. — Dominique Whaley's value was underscored Oct. 22 in a loss to Texas Tech, a game the walk-on running back sat out because of the flu.
The Sooners, though, have no choice but to make adjustments without Whaley after he suffered a season-ending broken ankle on the first play of a 58-17 win over Kansas State Saturday afternoon Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Sophomore Roy Finch inherits the starting role. But Finch's role will be different from Whaley's heavy workload. Finch's role will be similar to his big day against the Wildcats:
Nine carries for 73 yards.
Seven receptions for 69 yards.
“They're throwing in some packages where I'm at receiver and I'm not in the backfield,” Finch said. “That's how they get me some touches without all that pounding.”
With Whaley out for the season, the Sooners probably will go back to a committee approach.
In Saturday's win, freshman Brandon Williams rushed for 22 yards on eight carries. Brennan Clay, who started the first three games, had only one carry against K-State but is an option.
But that's the entire list of candidates. With Whaley's surprising emergence, Jermie Calhoun and Jonathan Miller left the team early in the season. Miller is transferring to Illinois State.
“I know my workload will increase because of Dom's loss,” Finch said. “I just need to be prepared, practice hard and get better every week.”
Weighing only 166 pounds, Finch can't handle 20 to 30 carries a game like Whaley.
But since he sometimes lines up in the slot, Finch could still get 20 touches a game.
“Anything that gets me into space I feel is a good thing,” Finch said. “I feel very comfortable if I can get linebackers one-on-one, make them miss and get upfield. Swing passes are very good for that.”
Regardless of how carries are divided, Finch will have a larger workload because of Whaley's injury. The first five games, Finch had only 10 carries.
Finch showed again Saturday he can be a difference maker. He even picked up a blitzing linebacker, a knock on his overall game earlier in the season.
“You play for moments like this, playing well on the road in a hostile environment,” Finch said. “I feel very confident.”
Co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said the offensive staff will have to explore ways to get others involved, including Trey Millard, who had only one carry but showed he's not your normal fullback when he rambled 61 yards for a touchdown.
“We have to look at the overall scheme of things,” Norvell said. “That run at the end of the game showed how he's capable of doing some things. I was pleased with how our guys responded after Dom got hurt.”
Whaley, who was once a second-team back at NAIA Langston, rushed for 627 yards the first six games. He was one of the top rushers in the conference before missing last week's game.
While he was being carted off the field, his left leg in a boot, Whaley tapped his chest and pointed to his teammates on the far sideline.
“We have a lot of athletes at each position,” Finch said. “Losing Dom is a big loss. But I feel we will be OK and can continue to establish the running game like we did today.”
Finch's first test as the “starter” was a dominant win.
“I feel some people started having some doubt (in us),” Finch said. “We were the No. 3 team in the country and lost at home. That should never happen. After that game, I feel we fell off the radar a little bit. This was a good win for us.”