The Cowboys traveled to Ames last year with a 5-1 record but the running game was struggling behind senior Jeremy Smith, who was limited to 14 yards on 12 carries the week earlier against TCU. After rushing for 286 yards in the season opener against Mississippi State, the OSU run game had been ineffective in the next four games. Smith only had 71 rushing yards on 38 carries in three Big 12 games.
Thus, Roland earned his first career start against the Cyclones last Oct. 26 and responded in a big way, rushing for a career-high 219 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.
“I remember I got a concussion that game … so I don’t remember much about it at all. I’ve seen the highlights because most of the game I was in the locker room. (Roland) had a really good game last year, and I’m hoping he’s able to do that again,” said Peterson, the Cowboys junior cornerback who ranks second in the Big 12 and 13th nationally with 1.8 passes defended per game.
“When we needed him to make plays he made them,” Peterson said of Roland. “He saw the holes and broke a lot of tackles (against Iowa State). He really helped us win in the end.”
Fast forward to Saturday when the Cyclones visit Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys have struggled at times to run the ball through the first four games of the 2014 season, averaging what head coach Mike Gundy calls a disappointing 4.1 yards per carry.
The Cowboys have not had anyone rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season. Roland came close with 95 yards on 21 carries in OSU’s 43-13 victory over Texas-San Antonio two weeks ago, but the last Cowboy to surpass the century mark was Roland with 144 rushing yards in Bedlam last December.
OSU ranks sixth in the Big 12 and 62nd nationally in rushing offense, averaging 171.8 yards per game.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and the offensive coaching staff have followed Gundy’s lead in stressing the importance of being able to run the ball in conference play, and it has been a point of emphasis in practice, says starting right guard Zac Veatch.
The sophomore from Broken Arrow played sparingly in a backup tight end role a year ago when the Cowboys defeated the Cyclones, but he remembers Roland’s performance at Jack Trice Stadium.
“I remember D-Ro had a great game. I didn’t get much playing time but I remember seeing him out there breaking a lot of tackles. He had a few good long runs. It was exciting. You get excited on the sideline whether you’re playing or not. It’s your team and you want everybody to do well. When you see somebody having a particularly good game you get fired up for them,” said Veatch, who hopes to see Roland have another outstanding game against the Cyclones.