By Rob Gray
AMES — The term “poised” stuck to Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson as spring ball dissolved into fall camp and the 2013 season swung into view.
Now, a two-word mantra sums up the bruised-and-battered sophomore’s state of being:
Richardson again could be withheld from competition when the Cyclones take on Big 12 rival Kansas State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (FS1) in Manhattan, Kan. — this time because of a heavy blow he took to the head and neck that knocked him out of last week’s 58-27 loss to Oklahoma State.
The Winter Park, Fla. native’s soldiered through a sprained right ankle, a groin issue and a roughed-up right thumb this season, but the hit he took from star Cowboys’ defensive end Tyler Johnson went beyond the “nagging” stage.
“It was more scary in the game than anything,” said Richardson, who will see backup Grant Rohach start his first game Saturday if ISU coach Paul Rhoads and the medical staff see lingering effects from the latest hit crop up in practice. “Just kind of took me off guard and I guess just took the wind out of me. I was just laying on the ground. Just a little pinch in my neck now, but nothing serious. Just stretched it pretty good, so we’ll see.”
There it is: “We’ll see.”
Rhoads has witnesses and processed plenty — even after Saturday’s jarring blow that relegated Richardson to the bench.
“Warrior’s a term I like to describe guys that that who play through a lot of pain,” said Rhoads, whose team has lost four straight to the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3) by an average of 5.3 points. “If you would have seen the look in his eye as I did when I went on the field Saturday — there’s concern about a player in that case. And when he walked over to me on the sideline and said, ‘Hey, coach, I can go,’ there’s a lot of admiration you get for a young man like that.”
Appreciation for Rohach is also building as the Cyclones (1-6, 0-4) seek to get on track on the road.
The redshirt freshman has played in back-to-back games, completing 55.6 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and an interception.
He, unlike Richardson, sustained his physical setbacks in camp via hamstring and finger injuries, so he’s healthy, but raw now.
“A lot of things I need to improve on,” Rohach said. “Some encouraging things to shine a good light on, but mostly, I’m pretty sure I need to get better at a lot of things.”
That’s true of the injury-plagued offense as a whole, which ranks 78th or worse nationally in 10 statistical categories.
“We need to get more where as a whole offensive unit — that includes from the quarterback all the way to the last guy, it includes executing your job,” Cyclone offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. “And that’s what we’ve got to keep doing, is going into work every day trying to get better at our individual jobs.”
For Richardson, getting better has a dual meaning.
His career-best 51-yard run achieved in the loss to the Cowboys prompted teammate Jeff Woody to say this:
“A heathy Sam scores by 10 yards. No one’s even close.”
Richardson laughed at the comment.
“I’d like to think that,” he said. “I don’t know if I can give you an honest answer on that.”
The two words, “we’ll see,” seem appropriate.
Same goes for injuries, which haven’t licked Richardson yet.
“That’s what I’ve done all year, just go out there and play regardless of the situation,” he said.
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