The Iowa State Cyclones got 2013 started off in the worst possible way. Back to back losses to FCS Northern Iowa and the rival Iowa Hawkeyes got things rolling the wrong direction for Paul Rhoads and crew, but the Cyclones have shown some resiliency and played much better in their last three games. The key to their drastic improvement, and their best shot at salvaging their 1-4 start to the season, is the emergence of running back Aaron Wimberly as the workhorse ball-carrier the team has been missing.
During the first two games of the season, Wimberly got just 10 total touches and the Iowa State offense struggled to get anything going. Since Rhoads began calling the junior college transfer’s number, however, he’s been delivering for them with strong, effective running. In the last three games, Wimberly has carried the ball 19, 29 and 19 times and averaged 106.3 yards per game on the ground with a pair of touchdowns. He wasn’t able to finish last week’s close loss against the Texas Tech Red Raiders or his numbers may have been even better.
While Iowa State has gone just 1-2 since they found Wimberly, the difference between the offense in the first two games and the last three could not be more drastic. Thanks to the running game, the Cyclones were able to grind out a win against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and held a 30-24 lead over the Texas Longhorns in Ames with four minutes to go. They would eventually lose the game to Texas when the Longhorns engineered a 75-yard drive (with the help of a few pass interference calls and a controversial non-fumble at the goal line) to escape with the victory.
But if Wimberly were still getting ignored in the offense, Iowa State probably gets blown out in each of those games because of their complete lack of offense. Thanks to a strong running game, the Cyclones can control the tempo of games a little bit better and put themselves in positions to win. Wimberly has been the key to getting that running game started in 2013 and he’ll be the key to keeping it going the rest of the way.