Iowa State has changed quarterbacks and coordinators this season, but the Cyclones’ offensive identity is the same it has always been.
The Cyclones are at their best when they give the football to Mike Warren.
The freshman running back has become a workhorse in his debut season, running for 1,070 yards and four touchdowns on 186 carries. He has topped 125 yards in five games, erupting for a career-high 245 yards against Texas Tech.
Warren has been so good that Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads was asked this week if he could be one of the best running backs in school history.
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“Talentwise, it’s fair to make some comparisons to some of those guys,” Rhoads said. “I was around the greatest at Iowa State, and not many compare to Troy Davis. He was a phenomenal player. (Warren) is a very talented player in another era. Time will show if he has the staying power.”
In the meantime, K-State can expect a heavy dose of Warren on Saturday. The Wildcats have defended the run well this season, but they struggled in their last outing against Texas, allowing DeAndre Washington to run wild for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
Odds are good Iowa State will give Warren ample opportunity to do the same.
“They are going to do what they do, and they are going to do it well,” K-State linebacker Will Davis said. “They are going to line up, and they are going to try to punch you in the mouth and run the ball down your throat. It is a great challenge for our defense. It is going to be a physical game, it is going to be tough.”
Iowa State differs from many defenses in the Big 12 in that regard. Unlike Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, the Cyclones prefer a straightforward style that emphasizes execution rather than a fast pace. They can speed up the tempo and spread out defenses, too. But that is not their forte.
K-State’s defense will prepare for every scenario, but its focus will be on Warren.
“They have a balanced offense in terms of throwing it and running it,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “The obvious thing is their running back is very confident, and he can get all of that yardage. He has 1,000 yards in what, 10 games? So, he is pretty productive.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Iowa State at Kansas State
Kickoff: 11 a.m. Saturday, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan. (FS1)