AMES — While the injuries continue to pile up for the Iowa State football team, some of the walking wounded could be making their way back.
Quarterback Sam Richardson, who missed two-plus quarters with a head and neck injury against No. 18 Oklahoma State, is penciled in as the starter against Kansas State (2:30 p.m., FS1) on Saturday. Meanwhile, running back Aaron Wimberly (hamstring) and linebacker Luke Knott (hip) are day-to-day. Their status is uncertain, but a return isn’t out of the question at this point.
It may not be the best news for coach Paul Rhoads, but it beats the alternative of lengthy time absences, even if it sounds as if most in the program would rather deal with any other topic.
“When injuries crop up and you can’t play a guy and everything gets thrown out of whack, there is a high level of frustration,” Rhoads said.
Injuries are one reason for why ISU’s season hasn’t gone as planned. The Cyclones (1-6, 0-4 Big 12) admit it, but that’s where it stops.
“You can say that you are snake bitten, but you can’t use it as an excuse,” running back Jeff Woody said. “You can’t use it as a crutch. You’ve got to have guys that are able to step in and execute at a high level, too.”
If any Cyclone would classify as snake bitten, it’s Richardson. Since spraining his ankle in the season opener, he’s been dealing with an assortment of injuries. His latest came when he was trying to slide and was hit in the upper back from behind by Oklahoma State defensive end Tyler Johnson in the second quarter. He never returned to the game, but did practice on Sunday.
The depth chart may list him as a co-starter with Grant Rohach, but Rhoads said Richardson will start if he can go.
“(The) plan would be to go through the week and make sure he is 100 percent off this recent injury and can operate the offense,” Rhoads said.
If Richardson starts, he’ll be asked to get more consistent production from the offense. ISU scored 21 second-quarter points on Saturday, but the offense stalled out the rest of the game. Over the last three contests, the Cyclones have had 31 drives that failed to produce a first down.
“We’ve shown we have the ability to execute, and we’ve shown that we’ll go three-and-out,” offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said, “and we need to get more as a whole offensive unit, that includes from the quarterback all the way to last guy.”
The return of Wimberly certainly would help. He leads the Cyclones with 388 rushing yards. He sat out the Oklahoma State contest, but did jog on Sunday. How his hamstring responds to treatment will dictate if he plays against the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3).
Knott is in a similar position. He’s played through the hip injury all season, racking up 45 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. An extended period of rest may be the only way it will heal, Rhoads said.
But that won’t come until after the season.
“He is better,” Rhoads said. “He’ll be day to day, much like Aaron, (not sure) how much we’ll be able to use him this Saturday.”
ISU will be without wide receiver Jarvis West, who suffered an MCL sprain against Oklahoma State. He is the fourth player to succumb to the injury this season.
“We have an MCL fairy that is looking down on us and striking us down,” Woody said.
Defensive end Willie Scott will play this week, Rhoads said. Scott started the first six games, but didn’t play against Kansas State for a failure to live up to team expectations.
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