STILLWATER — Jeremy Smith averaged 0.1 yards per carry at West Virginia.
And as bad as that sounds, it was worse because that average is rounded up. He averaged 0.067 yards.
That's 2.4 inches.
That's a little wider than an iPhone screen.
There was plenty of offensive blame to go around after Oklahoma State's abysmal performance last week. J.W. Walsh was off. The line was porous. The play calling was lacking. The receivers had the dropsies.
But the Cowboys have got to take a critical look at running back.
On a day when Kansas State comes to town and OSU must get its offense back on track, Smith has to be on notice. If he doesn't produce Saturday and quickly, Cowboy coaches need to look at the next man up.
The Cowboys absolutely must get more out of the run game.
As pass-happy as the OSU offense has become with the spread, balance has remained critical. The Cowboys have had it in the past whether the run game has come from Kendall Hunter or Joe Randle, ranking second in the Big 12 in rushing last season and fourth in 2010. In 2011, they ranked ninth, but that was the Fiesta Bowl year featuring Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
In case you haven't noticed, this OSU team has neither a Weeden nor a Blackmon.
The Cowboys rank fifth in the conference in rushing, directly behind the vaunted running attack of the Kansas Jayhawks.
For the OSU offense to work best, the running game opens up the passing game. These Cowboys need that now more than ever.
Despite Walsh's improved passing, the past couple games have been a reminder he's never going to be Wes Lunt or Weeden or even Zac Robinson. His arm isn't a rocket. His aim isn't dead eye. But more than anything, his play is inconsistent. Sometimes, he'll be great. Sometimes, he'll be suspect.
Want to take some pressure off Walsh?
Run the ball better.
Last week when Walsh started out struggling, the pressure only increased when Smith produced nothing in the run game. Give the ball to Smith on first down, and it was going to be second and long. Hand it to him on second down, and it was a going to be a tough road on third down.
As bad as Smith was last week — his rushing total was second worst by an FBS running back with at least 15 carries in the past decade, according to ESPN Stats & Info — it wasn't the first time this season that he has struggled. His production has been steadily dropping since a 102-yard performance against Mississippi State.
Against Lamar: 10 carries for 40 yards.
At Texas-San Antonio: 12 carries for 34 yards.
Smith had three touchdowns against Lamar and one against UTSA, pushing his career total to 31, which ranks seventh in OSU history. He has proven over the past few years that he could be a capable sidekick, but the body of evidence is growing that Smith just isn't getting the job done as the feature back.
Could Desmond Roland?
Could Rennie Childs?
We don't really know, but last week, presumably running similar plays as Smith against West Virginia, Roland rushed for 46 yards on seven carries. It doesn't seem like a ton, but put his 6.6-yard-per-carry average next to Smith's average, and Roland looks like Barry Sanders.
As much as Tailback U would love to have an electric back like Sanders right now, OSU would settle for effective.
The Cowboys have got to have more than 2.4 inches a carry.
A lot more.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.