Stillwater — Desmond Roland was patiently waiting for his chance and when it finally came last Saturday, he took advantage of it.
In his first career start, the junior running back delivered, rushing for 219 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries to help lead No. 18 Oklahoma State to a 58-27 triumph at Iowa State.
Now, of course, the trick is to prove he can produce in consecutive games as the go-to runner when the Cowboys (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) visit Lubbock to face No. 15 Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1) on Saturday.
“I was just staying positive and I was thinking, ‘Once I get my chance to actually play and carry the ball a lot, I have to take advantage of that,’ and I feel like I did that,” said Roland, who earned Big 12 offensive player of the week honors. “I wasn’t expecting to have that type of game. But our O-line was making great holes and they made it easy for me, I was just running. Now I’m trying to forget about the game, believe it or not, and focus on Texas Tech.”
As for the notion of him feeling pressure to duplicate that success, Roland shrugs it off.
“It’s never any pressure,” he said. “As long as our offense is going well and as long as we win the game, I feel like that’s a good accomplishment for me.”
Roland’s performance revitalized an Oklahoma State running game that had been struggling in recent weeks, unable to reach 100 total yards rushing in the two previous contests and managing 111 the week before that.
Coach Mike Gundy, like Roland, also directed plenty of credit to the offensive line.
“He’s worked hard and he got more carries,” Gundy said of Roland. “The majority of it falls on our offensive line and their ability to block so that the running backs don’t have to make a cut in the backfield. This was the first game that we had the same starting five, for the most part, as the game before. There was some consistency in practice over a two-week period. I would like to think that has an effect and hopefully they will continue to improve as we move forward.”
Jeremy Smith, who started every other game this year, endured two difficult outings in that recent stretch, earning 1 total yard on 15 carries in the Cowboys’ 30-21 defeat at West Virginia on Sept. 28 and gaining 14 yards on 12 carries Oct. 19 in a 24-10 victory over TCU.
Roland’s biggest impact prior to last week had been his 46 yards on seven carries in the West Virginia game, but against TCU when Smith came out in the third quarter, freshman Rennie Childs picked up the slack, even though Roland had already scored a 3-yard touchdown earlier in the game. Childs looked impressive, piling up 45 yards on nine carries and added a 34-yard reception in his first significant appearance of the season, while Roland ended up with just 11 yards on three carries.
Heading into the win at Iowa State, the spotlight was on Childs, but Gundy chose to start Roland, and after gaining 38 yards and scoring a touchdown before the midway point of the opening quarter, Roland assumed the role of OSU’s primary back.
“I wasn’t expecting to get that many carries, but once I started working hard and making plays early in the game, I knew coach was going to let me keep rolling, that’s how he is,” said Roland, who hadn’t handled the ball that many times since his days at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas. “He likes to ride the hot hand. Our offense was making me look good.”
Roland will undoubtedly make his second start against Texas Tech, but once again, how often he gets the ball throughout the game will depend on his performance during the first few series.
“We haven’t changed the reps, the reps will stay the same in practice, but if Desmond continues to stay hot, then we use the other guy as a role player,” Gundy said. “You just have to see how the game goes.”