AMES — Iowa State tailback James White’s personal homecoming happens to coincide with a great deal of hoopla.
For him, it means as many as 20 family members cheering for the Cyclones (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) against 15th-ranked conference newcomer Texas Christian (4-0, 1-0) Saturday in the Dallas metro area.
“Cousins, sisters, brothers, Mom,” said White, who achieved ISU’s longest run from scrimmage — 36 yards — in last week’s 24-13 loss to Texas Tech. “It’s fun, always, going back to Dallas. That’s what I like about the Big 12. We get to play schools from my area.”
They’re all good, too.
Case in point: The Horned Frogs, who are based in nearby Fort Worth. They’ll unveil renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium — after $164 million of work — to a conference-wide audience. They’ll also field a young, dynamic and defensively stout team bent on proving itself in a BCS-level league.
TCU ranks among the top eight nationally in rushing defense (78.75 yards per game), pass efficiency defense (79.04 rating), total defense (255.75 yards) and scoring defense (7.25).
“First of all, it’s playing it so long,” ISU Coach Paul Rhoads said about what makes the Horned Frogs so stringent defensively. “You’ve got guys in the system that thoroughly know and understand the defense. You’ve got a coaching staff that has answers because they’ve been doing it together so long. It’s one of the key things, especially for a play-caller, to have answers: ‘If they do this, I do that,’ And they have that within the system and they’ve recruited to the system.”
Thwarting that system depends on solid efforts from players such as White, who leads the Cyclones in yards per carry (5.7), rushing yards (211), rushing touchdowns (two) and big-play runs (he has a 56-yarder).
“I feel like (I’m not) just there all the way,” White said about his season-to-date performance. “I feel like I can create more explosive runs if I press the line of scrimmage a little bit more. So I’ve just got to stay focused each week — take care of my body. Sleep, hydration, all that stuff is important. Come in and watch film. Just be all in for the team; make myself better to help this team.”
ISU managed 116 yards on the ground against Texas Tech, but running backs accounted for 102 yards on 19 carries.
Quarterback Steele Jantz, who is competing with backup Jared Barnett for the No. 1 job this week, rushed 19 times for 14 yards — a yardage total diminished by four sacks.
“It’s not the quarterback, it’s not just the O-line, it’s offensive wide, which includes the game-planning, which includes the play-calling,” Rhoads said. “You’ve got to look at all of that, you’ve got to analyze all of that.”
White said “little things” are largely to blame for the Cyclones’ sporadic offensive production. A bad read here, a turnover there.“You can’t have those things back,” he said. “You wish you could have a redo button, but you can’t.”