The number jumps off the stat sheet: 302. That’s the rushing yardage North Dakota State piled up during a 34-14 victory over Iowa State last weekend in Ames.
It is, perhaps, the main reason why the Bison easily rallied from a 14-0 hole to win by a comfortable margin. Churning out yards allowed them to hold the ball for nearly 36 minutes and dominate the second half. John Crockett led the way with 139 yards and three touchdowns, but three other NDSU players got in on the act. Chase Morlock rushed for 83 yards and a score, King Frazier had 40 yards and quarterback Carson Wentz had 38 yards.
All four of them broke off single runs of at least 15 yards. Crockett had an 80-yard run. Morlock had a 66-yard run.
When K-State’s running backs saw those numbers, their reaction was predictable.
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“You get excited,” sophomore running back Charles Jones said. “But then again, for a conference game everybody brings their A-game. So they are not going to be a slouch team. They are going to come and they are going to come hard. North Dakota State had some success running the ball, we will see if we can have some success, too.”
It will be interesting to see how K-State chooses to attack Iowa State’s defense. Leaning on its running back committee seems like a sound approach.
But it’s also predictable.
“North Dakota State is a good team,” senior running back DeMarcus Robinson said. “We can’t go in there thinking that we will get the same results. We have to put the work in and practice and do the things that we have to do. We have to be ready to play against Iowa State, because Iowa State is a great team.
“They remind me of our defense, fundamentally sound, play hard, play smart, just like Bill Snyder wants. Every year we play them, besides last year, it has been a close game. You can’t just expect to go out there and gain yards against them.”
Iowa State will be working to fix its run defense all week, the same way K-State will be working against quarterback scrambles. Might the Wildcats be better off throwing, or maintaining a balanced offense? A year ago, K-State went into a similar situation at Texas. The Longhorns had surrendered a boatload of rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks in previous games. They made it their mission to stop Daniel Sams, and after a few early run attempts, K-State went with Jake Waters, asking him to throw deep to Tyler Lockett.
Texas won that game. Waters hopes to learn from that experience by putting up impressive stats, no matter the category.
“Obviously, every week the emphasis is to get the ground game going, because that is going to open up everything,” Waters said. “North Dakota State, they had some success, but what is Iowa State doing right now? They are trying to patch up that run game right now, they are trying to get that run game better. It is going to be harder to run against them, so we just want to stick to the game plan and take what the defense gives us. If the passing opportunity is better, we will take it. If the running opportunity is better, we will take it.”