AMES, Iowa — Jeremy Smith had disappointed as OklahomaState’s feature back. Rennie Childs had offered a glimpse of promise for the future, and perhaps, the present.
Desmond Roland was largely the forgotten man.
That is, until Saturday.
There was Roland, rumbling and trudging and bouncing his way to a historic day in his first career start, picking up 219 yards and four touchdowns to carry the Cowboy offense in a 58-27 victory at IowaState Saturday afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium.
“I can’t even explain...I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for a long time now,” Roland said. “…I just knew when my name was called, I had to show them that I was worth playing, was worth starting.
“And I feel like I did that today.”
Roland’s performance was OSU’s best since Kendall Hunter tallied 257 yards against WashingtonState in 2010 and the Cowboys’ first 200-yard rusher since Hunter compiled 201 against Nebraska that same season.
In many ways, Roland’s production was needed, as Clint Chelf and the OSU passing game labored its way to just 78 yards through the air against the Cyclones. But to outsiders, Roland getting this shot at all was a surprise, as he had totaled just five carries for 12 yards over the Cowboys’ last two games.
Yet Roland found out in last Sunday’s team meeting that he would start over Smith, who had been largely ineffective in that role throughout the season, and Childs, who sparked optimism with a breakout second half against TCU.
And Roland took the opportunity and, well, you know the rest.
“You just ride the hot hand,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said.
Roland hit holes hard and broke arm tackles all day. But after totaling 54 yards and two scores on 11 carries in the first half, some key adjustments helped Roland explode after intermission.
The Cowboys ran a heavy dose of two-back sets. Some were zone-read plays, while others were designed handoffs.
Roland broke a 32-yard run on OSU’s first possession after the break, getting the Cowboys to the Iowa State 26 before a Chelf interception. He totaled 42 of the Cowboys’ 53 yards on their next possession, which ended in a Ben Grogan field goal.