ISU, Toledo rushing offenses find different success

Alex Gookin

It is no secret — Iowa State is struggling to run the ball. It’s an aspect of the game that both coach Paul Rhoads and offensive coordinator Mark Mangino are adamant about utilizing, but struggling to implement.

Iowa State’s homecoming opponent, Toledo, is not having any problems running the ball. In fact, it’s the strength of their offense. Leading rusher Kareem Hunt was averaging more than 100 yards per game and nearly nine yards per carry before injuring his ankle three weeks ago.

“We certainly believe he’ll be back for our game and we’ll have to prepare with that in mind,” Rhoads said. “The head coach is an offensive guy. … They’ve been prolific at scoring points and they plug the next guy in.”

After losing Hunt to injury for a couple games, the next guy in didn’t miss a beat. Freshman Terry Swanson rolled for 269 yards in his last two games and also averaged nearly nine yards per carry.

The Cyclones, however, have an advantage: Louis Ayeni. The former Toledo running backs coach is now coaching the same position at Iowa State and has helped the Cyclones prepare to defend the running backs and offense that he helped build.

“You get an understanding of personnel,” Rhoads said of Ayeni’s knowledge of the team. “This is a guy who has been there and knows who they are. We’ll get a more accurate scouting report [of Toledo] with Lou on the staff.”

Ayeni has nothing but respect for his former team, not needing to remind players and coaches that the Rockets are on a three game win streak with a top 25 rushing attack in the country.

Despite Toledo being perhaps the easiest team on the schedule to date after playing a barrage of ranked opponents, the Cyclones say they aren’t letting off the gas for this one.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game,” said quarterback Sam Richardson. “Coach Lou [Ayeni] coming from there, he knows a lot about them and he’s pressed on us they’re not going to be an easy opponent whatsoever.”

After holding both Iowa and Oklahoma State to 129 yards on the ground, the Cyclones are starting to get comfortable with their rush defense. It’s the offensive rushing that still causes concerns.

However, Iowa State’s rushing totals are on a slow upswing after abysmal numbers to start the season, and running back Aaron Wimberly showed promising signs of improvement in the second half of the Oklahoma State game.

With both Martinez Syria and Tyler Brown seeing the field in the past two games, Iowa State now has four running backs at their disposal and the team feels they are close to finally breaking down the hypothetical wall that has held them back this season.

“I think with the running game and the offense, a lot of it is the little tiny things that we need to clean up,” said lineman Jake Campos. “We are one block away, one cut away from just busting some big plays on those runs.”