Bill Snyder said he had never seen Charles Jones run harder.
Jones, a Kansas State junior running back, smiled and agreed.
“It has been a while since I made plays like that,” Jones said Saturday after rushing for a season-high 75 yards and two touchdowns against TCU. “I was just trying to run hard and go north to south.”
He had one other factor working in his favor — a strong and precise offensive line. K-State rushed for 228 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-45 loss to No. 2 TCU, averaging 4.8 yards per run. Quarterback Joe Hubener rumbled for 111 yards and four scores, while starting running back Justin Silmon added 22 yards.
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In previous games, K-State’s best rushing strategy appeared to be handing the ball to Silmon and asking the redshirt freshman to make something out of nothing. But that was before senior left guard Boston Stiverson got re-acclimated to the offensive line. He missed the first three games with injury, and played catchup in his first game back.
But everything fell into place Saturday.
“Our offensive line played with a great passion,” Snyder said. “... That is part of what we talked about at the outset of the conference here. I shared with them in front of our team how proud I was with them. I thought they had taken a major step forward.”
For the first time all season, K-State’s four returning starters looked in sync on the offensive line.
With freshman center Dalton Risner improving each week, the Wildcats are confident they can run on anyone.
“When we watched the TCU film and looked at those holes we had to run through ... wow, were they huge,” Hubener said. “Sometimes, all I had to do was follow my blockers into the end zone. I can’t take credit for that. The offensive line did a tremendous job. I can’t thank them enough.”
Jones said the offensive line blocked so well that his focus was solely on making defensive backs miss. He knew his blockers would get him past the line of scrimmage and take care of oncoming linebackers.
“They made all of our jobs easy,” Jones said.
Cody Whitehair, Luke Hayes, Matt Kleinsorge, Stiverson and Risner made things so easy for Jones that he can expect increased carries in future games.
The harder-running Silmon passed him after rushing for 119 yards against Louisiana Tech, looking like the superior backfield option. Perhaps he still is. But Jones has greater knowledge of the playbook, is good in pass protection and knows how to follow his blockers.
Snyder says he will use both running backs and award carries based on who has the hot hand in a particular game.
K-State now appears to have three primary rushing options. Snyder has confidence in all three because of the offensive line.
“The offensive line is making huge strides,” Risner said. “We are doing a really good job of finishing drives. Our running game has really stepped up. Charles Jones, Justin Silmon and Joe Hubener are running the heck out of the ball. It is easy whenever you have got guys running hard like that. I am really happy with where we are at.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett