Iowa State's offensive efforts have been hindered by a variety of reasons so far this season, one being that quarterback Sam Richardson has been playing hurt.
The sophomore sustained an ankle injury in Week 1 in a loss to Northern Iowa and has been battling with it ever since. Though Richardson would rack up 260 yards passing in a Week 3 loss to Iowa—much of it late in the game—it was obvious he didn't look comfortable throwing or running the ball.
The Cyclones received a much-needed second bye week Saturday—rare for this early in the year—for Richardson and starting center Tom Farniok, who has a sprained MCL, to heal up in time for the game against Tulsa on Thursday.
However, ISU coach Paul Rhoads said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference that Richardson will likely be dealing with his injury for a while.
"Sam will be much better than he was in the Iowa game, but he’s far from healthy," Rhoads said via Dean Berhow-Goll of the Iowa State Daily. "It’s a lingering type of injury that may bother him throughout the course of the season.”
Keeping Richardson healthy going forward should be a priority for Rhoads, but a major problem is that there's been little to no run game so far.
Richardson is currently Iowa State's leading rusher with 86 yards on 29 carries. Against the Iowa Hawkeyes, Richardson had just 12 yards on eight carries while looking visibly limited.
The Cyclones' running backs and offensive line haven't helped out. Running the ball was an issue last year for Iowa State and things haven't improved. Running backs this year have combined to average just 3.6 yards per carry.
Richardson may look better against Tulsa next week, but if his ankle is going to be a lingering problem like Rhoads says, there's no way he's going to be able to lead the team in rushing attempts the entire year and not miss some game time in the process.
If Richardson does go down with an injury, who steps up? The Cyclones are young at quarterback with three freshmen and one redshirt sophomore, Brandon Horbach. In any case, none of the other quarterbacks on the roster have attempted a pass at the collegiate level.
For as rough as Iowa State has looked on offense, it could get much worse if Richardson isn't on the field. Making a bowl seems like a long shot for this team as it is and that's with Richardson at less than 100 percent.
It will likely be a long year for Iowa State if Richardson cannot get fully healthy again.