Leaders’ injuries hamper Cyclones: ISU stagnates after Farniok, Bundrage leave NDSU game

Redshirt junior wide receiver Quenton Bundrage injured his ACL in the fourth play of the North Dakota State game Aug. 30. Coach Paul Rhoads announced to the press Sept. 1 that Bundrage will be out for the rest of the season to recover from the injury.

Alex Gookin

On the fourth play of the game against North Dakota State, Quenton Bundrage went down clutching his knee. ISU fans held their breath as memories of injuries that plagued Iowa State last year crept back into their minds.

Bundrage got up and walked off the field on his own power, giving fans false hope of a return. Head coach Paul Rhoads would announce Monday the end of Bundrage’s season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Before even getting a pass thrown his way, the team’s leading returning receiver’s season was over.

After Rhoads announced the extent of Bundrage’s injury, Bundrage tweeted the following:

“I’ll come back stronger, faster, and smarter. Gotta keep God first, not gone cry about something I can’t control. God has a plan for me! CYCLONES”

Even being one of the team’s leaders, the loss of Bundrage might not seal the fate of the receivers. The Cyclones were already playing without Tad Ecby and D’Vario Montgomery, who were serving one-game suspensions for violations of team rules. Ecby and Montgomery will see significant playing time this season once they become eligible this weekend against Kansas State.

Despite being down three receivers, six Cyclones caught passes against North Dakota State with no signs of concern. Freshman Allen Lazard, Bundrage’s backup, got behind a Bison defender and showed why he was a four-star recruit with a 48-yard grab that set up an ISU score. 

Lazard will play in Bundrage’s spot and Montgomery, quarterback Sam Richardson’s former high school teammate, will serve as his backup after being lauded for his play during fall camp. Although Bundrage won’t be on the field, he’s still expected to be a leader.

“Obviously, it’s tough being how well he performed last year,” Richardson said. “He obviously wanted to build on that, so it’s tough for him. It’s tough for the team and hopefully he can be a vocal guy for us now and kind of help out on the practice field.”

But another ISU injury played a more significant role in the team’s season opener loss to North Dakota State. Center Tom Farniok went down with a knee injury in the first quarter and the ISU offense went down with him.

In less than 15 minutes, the Farniok-led offense scored seven points and gained 95 yards. In the remaining 45-plus minutes without him, the team would only score seven more points and gain 158 more yards.

After being injured for much of last season, it has become obvious that the offense simply does not play as well when Farniok is off the field. More than his physical abilities, Farniok rallies the team as a leader.

“Everybody listens to him and he knows what he’s doing at that position,” said wide receiver Dondre Daley. “He knows how to find ways to make his block easier and how to get the job done.”

Making the situation worse is his backup, Ben Loth, suffered a career-ending knee injury during fall camp. Jamison Lalk, listed as starting left guard heading into the season opener, replaced Farniok and created a mixup on the line that may have hindered the offense.

However, Rhoads expects Farniok to play against Kansas State and says the injury should not be nagging. But the offense runs through Farniok and any time No. 74 is off the field, the Cyclones will have to work twice as hard to make up for it.

“You can’t replace experience,” said Rhoads. “There’s something about a leader and the glue that he holds that elevates your football team and when you lose that glue you can’t help but be affected … It’s an adversity lesson that we have to learn to overcome.”