Offensive line shifts, White shines

Jake Calhoun

With numerous dramatic performances four games into the season, ISU coach Paul Rhoads has taught his team to forget.

The third-year coach of the ISU football team said Tuesday at his weekly news conference that his team was noticeably eager to focus on its game against Baylor while thoughts of last Saturday’s 37-14 loss to No. 11 Texas appeared nonexistent.

“This [loss was] one, judging by the attitude of our football team Sunday, that we rebounded quickly from knowing what exciting challenges are ahead of us,” Rhoads said. “Our kids were eager to be coached, realized the mistakes that they had made that largely contributed to our loss and are anxious to get back out on the field again.”

The Cyclones (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) will be traveling to Waco, Texas, to take on No. 25 Baylor (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

At the news conference, Rhoads said that right tackle Brayden Burris’ surgery on his leg to repair a fracture that was sustained against Texas was successful, but that he would be out for at least six weeks.

Burris’ absence will yield a chance for Carter Bykowski and Kyle Lichtenberg to rotate at right tackle, Rhoads said.

“Lichtenberg’s got good feet, so he can hold his own,” said right guard Hayworth Hicks. “The only difference between him and Brayden is that Brayden has the experience. He’s just got to learn to adjust.”

Both Bykowski and Lichtenberg have seen action in at least three games this season, with Bykowski having filled in for senior Kelechi Osemele, who has been battling a recurring ankle injury, in all four games at left tackle.

“Carter’s a physical player,” Rhoads said. “Every chance Carter gets to get more snaps, I believe he gets better. The better competition he gets, the better he gets.”

Rhoads went on to say that everyone else who left the field on Saturday due to some sort of ailment is expected to play against Baylor, including Leonard Johnson.

Johnson, a starter at cornerback, was carted off the field on a stretcher after a helmet-to-helmet hit with Stephen Ruempolhamer in the fourth quarter.

Among the negatives that riddled the Cyclones’ play against Texas, one of the positives that emerged was the running game — namely the performance of sophomore James White.

“I think he’s showing the more snaps he gets, the stronger he gets and the better he performs,” Rhoads said. “He’s very elusive, he doesn’t need much of a hole. He showed better speed than I would have thought in Saturday night’s game.”

White rushed for a game-high 64 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown last Saturday, but would have had more with a combined 25 rushing yards called back due to two different holding calls during the game.

“If you get a few carries here and a few carries there, you see how the defense is flowing, it helps a running back,” White said.

White chipped away at the UT defense Saturday, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and giving the Cyclone offense hope after a discouraging first half.

For the offensive line, White’s performance was encouraging.

“That’s the best part ever,” Hicks said of seeing White being able to break for big gains. “Now it’s worth something. He just broke away and we’re like, ‘OK, he did something good.’ That gets you more confidence. If we keep doing this, we’re going to keep getting these same kind of runs.”