STILLWATER — Through another ragged and frustrating offensive performance against TCU, a beacon of hope and optimism attached to one Cowboy: running back Rennie Childs.
A breakthrough for the Oklahoma State running game?
A breakout for Childs?
No one knows for sure — not even his coaches or teammates — which is often the case when true freshmen get thrown into the mix. There's always a curiosity of whether a young player can repeat success from a small sample size.
Still, Childs gained everyone's attention, after entering in the second half against the Horned Frogs and running for a team-high 45 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, and scooting 34 yards on a swing pass.
“I guess he kind of made a spark on this team,” said Cowboys guard Brandon Webb. “He's a real tough downhill runner. He's not really big, but he's still a physical runner. It was impressive.”
OSU's rushing offense, regularly a given over the past seven seasons, continues to lag. The Cowboys rank No. 7 in the Big 12 and 95th nationally in rushing yards per game. They're averaging just 136.5 yards in the run game; 3.9 per carry.
By comparison, OSU has averaged at least 174.4 yards per game since Mike Gundy's second season in 2006, producing a 1,000-yard rusher in each of those seasons and a first-team All-Big 12 back in five of the six.
Last season, Joseph Randle ran for 100 yards or more nine times.
Between Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland, who have received the majority of OSU's carries, the Cowboys claim but one 100-yard effort at this season's midway point, and that came in the opener against Mississippi State.
So Childs' spark is welcome.
“I'm not going to complain,” said Webb, part of an offensive line that has received its share of criticism for the offense's struggles. “You want to hit the hole downhill, I'm for that.
“Rennie got a pass out there for 30 once, was hitting some runs for chunk yardage. If it affects the run game, that's what you need to open up everything else. I'm all for it.”
The question now with the Cowboys headed for Iowa State Saturday: where does the OSU run game go from here? And what is Childs' role in determining the course?
Gundy offers caution, pointing out how much is involved in getting young backs ready to not only run, but handle the other responsibilities, like grasping the playbook, picking up blitzes, etc.