With all the numbers that Southwest Minnesota State University's passing offense has put up since Cory Sauter joined the Mustangs, one fact gets lost in the translation: SMSU had a fine running back in that mix.
Since 2006, Zach Wysong was a constant force for the Mustangs' offense, averaging 73.8 yards per game and scoring 25 total touchdowns.
Wysong's name is littered all over SMSU's record books. The running back is first all-time in career rushing yards (3,175), rushing attempts (664) and rushing yards per game. He also ranks second in rushing touchdowns, average yards per rushing attempt (4.78) and all-purpose yards (4,818).
Photo by Joe Brown
SMSU running back Warren Matthews (20) prepares for contact with safety Levi Reiff (2) during a drill in practice Friday at the New Mattke Field at the Regional Event Center.
Pretty impressive resume, and one that the Mustangs will surely miss this season.
In his first year as head coach, Cory Sauter has the mighty tough task of replacing Wysong.
"Zach was a great player. He was really that triple threat that could run the ball, block and catch," Sauter said. "He'll be dearly missed."
But Sauter has a running back waiting in the wings. Make that two running backs.
Vying for carries in the vacant SMSU backfield are sophomores Warren Matthews and Gannon Moore.
"We got two guys who are experienced - they're young, but they're experienced - because they played quite a bit last year," Sauter said. "They got their own styles and we have to play to their strengths and not make them do something they can't do."
Matthews and Moore have varying styles: Matthews was the shifty open-field runner who made his impact on special teams, setting school records with 38 kick returns and 913 kick return yards.
Moore was the rough and rugged inside runner who was nearly unstoppable in the red zone, tying a single-season school record last season with 13 rushing touchdowns. Moore had five games where he reached paydirt multiple times.
Who will become the full-time rusher to replace Wysong? Why, both of them. In some cases, Sauter said the offense will feature both backs in a split-back formation.
"The nice thing is it's always nice to have two backs. It's tough going through one season without having a guy go down," Sauter said. "Plus, we're in a situation where we live to put two tailbacks in the game and we'll have both back there, as well as rotating them in and keeping them fresh."
Wysong will be tough to replace this season. But with the dynamic duo of Matthews and Moore, the Mustangs are just as dangerous.