AMES, Iowa (AP) — Sam Richardson is moving better, throwing better and generally looking more like a healthy quarterback.
But the Iowa State sophomore still isn't completely over the right ankle injury that has nagged him for almost a month and his recovery has been complicated by a groin problem that popped up recently.
Richardson sprained his ankle in the Cyclones' season-opening loss to Northern Iowa on Aug. 31 and was noticeably hampered in his team's loss to Iowa nine days ago. Fortunately for Richardson, the Cyclones had no game last week, giving him more time to recover.
Iowa State plays again Thursday night at Tulsa.
"Sam is moving much better than he did in the Iowa game, but he's far from healthy," coach Paul Rhoads said Monday. "It's a lingering type of ankle injury that might bother him throughout the course of the season. So you start to adjust and deal with it, but he certainly was moving better in yesterday's practice than he did even last week."
Rhoads said the groin problem likely stemmed from Richardson compensating for the balky ankle.
"You get one and it affects the other," he said.
The coaching staff was close to replacing Richardson with redshirt freshman Grant Rohach at halftime of the Iowa game. But Richardson played the rest of the way and threw two second-half touchdown passes to make the 27-21 loss appear closer than it actually was.
Though Rohach has yet to take a snap with the Cyclones, wide receiver Justin Coleman said the team trusts him.
"He's been playing really well this last week. He's kicked into gear," Coleman said. "I think part of that is knowing that he needed to be ready. So I think we'd be confident with him out there if that's what we needed."
Richardson said he's 85 to 90 percent healthy.
"I've definitely progressed with my ankle, and my groin is feeling better," he said. "So definitely feeling better and getting a grasp of what we want to do for Tulsa."
Iowa State needs a mobile quarterback because its offense relies on zone-read running plays and designed quarterback runs. Rhoads also wants a quarterback who can scramble when the protection breaks down.
Richardson couldn't do any of that against Iowa and it showed. The Cyclones didn't reach 100 yards of offense until midway through the third quarter.
"Tulsa's been hurt a number of times with the ad-lib of a quarterback (scrambling)," Rhoads said. "If that's out of our offense, it's hard to be fully effective as we go forward."
Even better news on the injury front for Iowa State: Center Tom Farniok, who hasn't played since injuring a knee in the opener, is healthy again and will start against Tulsa.
"He's a huge leader for us," Coleman said. "He gets everybody in that right direction. He's like another quarterback out there."
A healthy Farniok and Richardson certainly would enliven the offense. So would more production from the running backs.
Despite his bum ankle, Richardson leads the team in rushing with 86 yards. Running backs James White, Shontrelle Johnson and Aaron Wimberly have combined for 135 yards and the longest run by anyone in that trio went for just 10 yards.
Rhoads talked before the season about handing the ball often to the back who had the "hot hand." So what happened to that plan?
"We haven't had a hand, elbow or foot hot yet as far as that goes," he said. "We haven't been able to put that philosophy in play."