MANHATTAN, Kan. — As Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon and Josh Stewart piled up receiving yards in recent seasons, it was sometimes easy to forget that Oklahoma State also had dynamic playmakers in its backfield.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
But there is no denying that former workhorse running backs Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle — who are both now in the NFL — made a major impact. By rushing for 2,741 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons before turning pro, Hunter kept the Cowboys balanced. Randle took things a step further by running for 3,085 yards and 40 touchdowns in three years.
They both caused headaches for opposing defenses. Stopping Oklahoma State’s explosive passing attack was difficult. Keeping Hunter and Randle in check, too, was nearly impossible.
But Kansas State will face a different type of running attack when it plays Oklahoma State on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. The Cowboys no longer have a featured running back. Quarterbacks, receivers and running backs are all getting touches. Through four games, eight players have carried the ball for 639 yards and 10 touchdowns. Opponents now have to focus on multiple running threats.
“There are a lot of different ways that they can approach the running game and they have done so by formation as well as personnel,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “Their quarterback is actively involved in the run game more than they have been in the past, so it makes it more varied and more diverse.”
Oklahoma State hasn’t always had mobile quarterbacks, but J.W. Walsh has proved he is a true dual-threat player. With 234 yards and two touchdowns, he is Oklahoma State’s top rusher. But he isn’t afraid to hand the ball off to running backs Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland. Smith has rushed for 177 yards and six touchdowns, while Roland has added 135 yards and one touchdown.
The Cowboys are averaging 159.8 rushing yards, which ranks 71st nationally and fifth in the Big 12, so their production is down from previous years. And West Virginia bottled them up for 111 yards in 40 carries.
Still, they outmuscled Mississippi State for 286 rushing yards in the season opener. They have talent and find unique ways to use it. Stewart has already carried the ball six times on misdirection plays.
K-State is allowing 185.5 rushing yards and surrendered 227 rushing yards to Texas in its last game, a 31-21 loss.
“Their quarterback is a talented player, and so is their running back and their offensive line,” K-State linebacker Mike Moore said. “We have to do what our coaches tell us and read our keys and be on top of everything if we want to succeed.”
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