Scuffling run game slows Iowa State
AMES, Iowa (AP) — Make no mistake, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads wants to run the football.
Rhoads pounded the table twice at his weekly news conference Monday to emphasize the point, which has become a critical issue for the Cyclones. Their running game has been scuffling and leading rusher James White is out with a knee injury.
"I'm not a (bam!) 'you've got to run the ball' guy," he said, showing a wry smile. "But (bam!) you've got to run the ball."
Rhoads said in August that he wanted to be a run-first team and believed he had the depth at running back to do it.
But the Cyclones (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Shontrelle Johnson ran for 120 in the opener against Tulsa and they've topped 200 yards rushing in a game only once, against FCS foe Western Illinois.
Iowa State managed only 65 yards on the ground in Saturday's 27-21 loss to Kansas State and sits last in the Big 12 and 85th nationally in rushing at 143 yards a game.
That's not what Rhoads had in mind going in, though in fairness all five of Iowa State's FBS opponents were in the top 31 nationally in run defense.
"If we can get to 200 (yards rushing), we're probably having a pretty good day overall as an offense," Rhoads said. "Right now, I'd settle for 180."
Or maybe 190. Iowa State is 14-4 under Rhoads when rushing for at least 190 yards in a game and 8-18 when it falls below that mark.
"Our running game over the past couple of weeks, whether that be defensive scheming against us and us not adjusting to it or whether it is just bad execution by us, it's not getting the job done as well as it needs to right now," running back Jeff Woody said. "That's the work in progress. That's going to be a focus, to make that an uptick."
Iowa State's longest run against Kansas State was an 11-yarder by Woody, who has been nagged by ankle and knee injuries. The Wildcats often bunched six defenders near the line of scrimmage, giving them one more tackler than the offensive line could block.