There may be no player more important to the Iowa State offense than the man that all plays begin with.
While Sam Richardson is the unequivocal pilot of Iowa State’s offense, center Tom Farniok is without a doubt the glue that holds it together. Nothing made that more evident than Farniok’s early exit in Saturday’s opener.
The ISU offense averaged 6.86 yards per play through the first 15 plays in the season-opener before Farniok went to the ground with an MCL strain in his left knee. He never returned and the offense stalled, averaging 3.57 yards per play with its remaining 42 plays.
“He’s one of the smartest players we have on the field,” Richardson said. “He knows all of the checks and knows our offense very well. I’d say he knows it second to me out there. It’s tough, because he’s a guy that’s started for us for four years now and he’s got quite a few starts under his belt."
The Cyclones shifted Jamison Lalk from left guard to center upon Farniok’s exit, and while Lalk performed fine, there is certainly a difference when it comes to pointing out checks and schemes and leading the offensive line.
Farniok’s start Saturday marked the 36th of his career, far and away more than the next closest ISU starter (Quenton Bundrage, 18).
“You can’t replace experience and being a four-year starter and being out there through all those battles. It’s simply that, it’s irreplaceable,” coach Paul Rhoads said. “Jamison came in and played well and he’s a smart player, but there’s just something about a leader and the glue that he holds that [together and] elevates the football team. When you lose that glue, you can’t help but be affected.”
Following the exit of Farniok late in the first quarter, the Cyclones would score on their third drive with the help of a 48-yard catch-and-run from Allen Lazard and a three-yard touchdown run from Aaron Wimberly to cap the two-play drive.
The offense from there gained 97 yards, went three-and-out four times and allowed Richardson to be sacked four times.
“It’s tough to lose that guy, the head guy on your offensive line, but we can’t fold when something like that happens,” Richardson said. “Obviously all of us want Tom out there, but any time he can’t be out there, we’ve still got to make those checks and be mentally strong.”
“When guys go down people have to step up and play,” Rhoads added. “If they don’t, the execution of your football team is going to suffer.”
Farniok strained the same MCL in the season-opener last season against Northern Iowa and missed the following game against Iowa. The prognosis this season is that the injury isn’t as severe, putting Farniok in line to play against Kansas State.
“Tom is as tough as they come and he’ll go out there and play through it,” Rhoads said. “Unless he would be hit in just the right fashion he’ll progress through the rehab and be back to normal.”