Richardson sparks ISU over KU

It was senior night for Kansas.

It was a glimpse at the future for Iowa State.

Cyclone quarterback Sam Richardson led his team to touchdowns on five of his first six drives as ISU defeated KU 51-23 to ruin the Jayhawks’ senior night at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

A redshirt freshman, Richardson didn’t enter the game until 4:16 left in the first quarter when he replaced starter Steele Jantz. He promptly showed the poise and presence of a veteran quarterback in helping the Cyclones become bowl eligible while improving to 6-5 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12.

In his fourth season in Ames, Iowa, coach Paul Rhoads has the Cyclones poised to make their third bowl appearance.

More importantly, the Cyclones might have found their quarterback of the future. Richardson finished 23-of-27 for 250 yards and four touchdowns with zero turnovers and he added 11 carries for 43 yards and another touchdown. The Winter Park, Fla., native was accurate, confident and efficient in the first extensive action of his career.

The unanswered question that lingers around Richardson: Can he do it consistently, against any and every Big 12 opponent? That remains to be seen, starting with ISU’s home finale against West Virginia on Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have plenty of questions of their own. With a 1-10 record and 20-game conference losing streak, all bets are off. Oddly enough, now is the time when KU coach Charlie Weis can learn a lot about his football team.

The players who care will be noticed, the ones who are content playing out the string will be exposed. KU running back Tony Pierson’s hustle to save two points after an interception on a Jayhawk 2-point conversion attempt is the perfect example of a guy who cares and wants to compete. Pierson ran 70-plus yards to tackle Cyclones safety Jacques Washington from behind in a game that his team was trailing by 18 points at the time, with little hope of rallying for a win.

While their record isn’t pretty, Weis will learn a lot about his Jayhawks program when KU battles WVU in its last game of the season on Dec. 1.