116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Jirehl Brock knew something was off with his ankle.
Iowa State’s top tailback had absorbed a hit while running for 8 yards in his one and only carry early in Saturday’s 14-11 loss at No. 19 Kansas, but still wanted to try to play.
Brock couldn’t, though — and his status, along with his primary backup, Cartvious Norton’s, remains fully up in the air as the Cyclones (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) prepare for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup with No. 20 Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium.
“Where are those guys at?” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said during Tuesday’s weekly news conference. “I think we’ll know a lot more as we get on the practice field (Tuesday) and (Wednesday). We would certainly love to have any of those guys available for us and I think those guys are closer than further away.”
How close? We likely won’t know until kickoff against the Wildcats (4-1, 2-0), who have struggled to stop the run so far this season. Kansas State ranks 71st nationally in rushing defense (143.8 yards per game), but the Cyclones’ rushing offense ranks 111th among 130 FBS teams, averaging 112 yards per game.
So if Brock and/or Norton are unable to play, ISU’s carries will fall primarily to Deon Silas and Eli Sanders, who average 3.8 and 3.2 yards per carry, respectively, so far this season.
“Next man up,” Silas said about becoming the primary ball carrier after Brock’s first-quarter injury.
Silas — a shifty 5-foot-8, 200-pound sophomore — has rushed for two touchdowns this season, which matches Brock’s scoring output on the ground.
But Brock leads the team with 306 yards rushing, while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. His absence adversely impacted Saturday’s loss to the Jayhawks, as the Cyclones managed to net just 26 yards rushing on 30 carries.
“That being said, we certainly have belief in the rest of our running backs in our football program,” said Campbell, whose team has won three of the past four meetings with the Wildcats. “And I thought those guys did some positive things for us in the game on Saturday.”
One of the reasons Campbell cited for meager rushing numbers this season is “flow of the game.”
Case in point: In ISU’s Big 12-opening losses, Baylor and Kansas surged to early double-digit leads. That forced the Cyclones to prioritize the passing game while trying to play catch-up, diminishing the effectiveness of the offense’s second dimension.
“You’re trying to get yourself back into the football game a little bit,” Campbell said. “So I think the flow kind of goes against the grain of where we need to play and where we would want to play.”
That, of course, would be playing from ahead instead of constantly trying to claw back from behind. And Silas and Sanders did provide some glimpses of what they’re capable of against the Jayhawks. Silas notched a 12-yard run and Sanders fought for 7 yards on one carry, and each caught at least one pass from quarterback Hunter Dekkers in the loss.
“Every snap counts,” said Silas, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry in limited duty last season while rushing for two touchdowns. “So, just really take advantage of every rep.”