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OSU football: Jemal Singleton finds a spark in running back Desmond Roland

Roland had been showing flashes of excellence in practice. Against Iowa State, he exploded for 219 yards and four touchdowns.
Oklahoman Published: October 28, 2013

photo - Oklahoma State running backs coach Jemal Singleton comes to Stillwater after five seasons at Air Force.  Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State running backs coach Jemal Singleton comes to Stillwater after five seasons at Air Force. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

BY GINA MIZELL, Staff Writer,

STILLWATER — Jemal Singleton is a big fan of this slogan: “Don't mess with the mojo.”

That's something the Oklahoma State running backs coach had been searching for most of the season, as the Cowboy attack — Jeremy Smith, in particular — struggled to find holes, break tackles and pick up yards. And it's something Singleton finally found Saturday in Desmond Roland, who exploded for 219 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries against Iowa State.

So what made Singleton originally turn to Roland, particularly after the junior had tallied just five carries for 12 yards over OSU's last two games?

“He's shown these glimpses of doing the things that he did on Saturday,” Singleton said. “… He did the things that I knew he was capable of doing, that I've seen him do. And it was nice to see him get rewarded, to get to see him do the things that we pound on and talk about every day and it bring success for him.”

Following the Cowboys' win against TCU — where Smith gained just 14 yards on 12 carries and fumbled — Singleton began looking for a spark. He turned to Roland's overall body of work over the potential of true freshman Rennie Childs, who totaled a team-high 45 yards on nine late carries against the Horned Frogs.

Singleton looked at the West Virginia game, where the Cowboys compiled just 111 yards on 40 carries but Roland had 46 yards on seven attempts. He also considered Roland's consistency in practice. Then in a meeting last Sunday, Singleton notified the position group that Roland would start against Iowa State.

And when Roland started rumbling through the Cyclone defense, Singleton didn't mess with the mojo.

“I was just staying positive,” Roland said. “And I was thinking that once I get my chance to play and carry the ball a lot, I had to take advantage of it. And I felt like I did.”

Roland's numbers Saturday were eye-popping. Yet the 219 yards was the last stat Singleton looked at.

What impressed the coach more? The fact that Roland didn't have any carries for negative yardage, something that had plagued Smith and others in previous games as they tried to make cuts behind the line of scrimmage while opposing defenders powered past the OSU offensive linemen and sliced into gaps.

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