ISU football offense improves in face of adversity, adjusts to coaches


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Levi Peters was helped off the field during the game against Kansas State on Sept. 6 at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones led for much of the game but couldn’t maintain their lead in the second half, and the Wildcats won 32-28.

Alex Gookin

With six new coaches on the ISU football staff, there was bound to be some hiccups in the first few games of the 2014 season. 

Just four plays into the 2014 season, the Cyclones were forced to adapt as the team’s leading wide receiver, Quenton Bundrage, went down with a season-ending injury. Only 10 minutes later, the team’s unquestioned leader and four-year starting lineman, Tom Farniok, went down with an injury that kept him out the rest of the game. Farniok’s former backup, Ben Loth, didn’t see the field after suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp.

Then left tackle Jacob Gannon left the team for personal reasons two days before taking on Kansas State and linebacker Levi Peters tore his Achilles tendon against the Wildcats.

Two games into the season, the team has yet to find the win column and players appear to be dropping like flies. However, after taking No. 20 Kansas State down to the wire, the team isn’t shying away from the challenge.

“It’s athletics, there’s going to be adversity,” said coach Paul Rhoads. “From week one to week two, I’m pleased with how we faced adversity.”

With receiver Quenton Bundrage out, senior Jarvis West stepped up in a big way for the Cyclones. He grabbed a receiving touchdown and returned a punt return for a touchdown before throwing a touchdown. The group adapted quickly with five receivers catching balls against Kansas State and four of them hauling in at least three passes each.

Much of offense’s success can be attributed to quarterback Sam Richardson’s improvements from last season. After dealing with adversity across the offensive line all of last season, Richardson has responded better this year to injuries.

“I feel like it happens quite a lot,” Richardson said of facing adversity. “Obviously this year we’ve lost quite a few guys, especially on the O-line. It’s something you have to deal with.”

For Richardson, who has completed 67.2 percent of his passes this season, adversity is the last thing on his mind. Even after Farniok went out with an injury against North Dakota State, Richardson did all he could.

“There’s too much stuff to think about on the football field and obviously that can’t be one of them,” Richardson said.

As the Cyclones prepare to head to Iowa City to take on their in-state rivals, the Hawkeyes are facing some of their own obstacles this week. After injuring his knee against Ball State, All-American lineman Brandon Scherff is listed as day-to-day and defensive end Drew Ott was involved in a motorized scooter accident Sept. 8 that sent him to the hospital, although he is expected to play on Saturday.

Scherff is widely considered a top-10 pick by NFL draft experts and is the anchor along the stout Iowa offensive line. Although he is listed as day-to-day, he is not expected to play against Iowa State.

For the Cyclones, it’s all about improvement, and Rhoads has seen that on both sides of the ball. After facing their fair share of adversity in the first two weeks, the Cyclones are ready to take on another one.

“We did improve,” Rhoads said. “With that improvement, even in a loss, you’ll go into the next week with more confidence as players and more credibility as coaches.”