When then-No.9 Oklahoma took Owen Field Saturday against Iowa State, coach Lincoln Riley dialed up three simple plays to start the game: hand offs to Kennedy Brooks.
The redshirt sophomore running back should be no stranger to getting the ball early and often, as he was a crucial player in the Sooners' 2018 campaign. In 11 games, he rushed for 1,056 yards, 12 touchdowns and 8.9 yards per carry.
Despite Brooks' past performance, he hasn't had the same opportunities he had a year ago. Brooks is not on pace to match his carries, yardage or touchdowns from last season, as he has only ran for 515 yards and three touchdowns.
It's not that Brooks is performing poorly, it's that he's not getting the same opportunities. His 8.2 yards per carry nearly matches his monstrous number from last year, but he's getting far less carries — his 63 attempts through eight games is nearly 20 less than he had through this point in the season a year ago.
But on Saturday, Brooks was finally able to resemble the player he was a year ago in both opportunities and production. Brooks finished the game with 15 carries for 132 yards — both season highs — and a 48-yard touchdown that fully represented his unique and shifty running style.
"The longer you're in the game, everybody is going to get in a rhythm," Brooks said. "So it's just a matter of time before anybody's going to break."
While Brooks was busy reminding Sooner Nation what he can bring to the field, fellow running back Trey Sermon suffered a season-ending injury.
Sermon and Brooks split time in the backfield in 2018, combining to be one of the most formidable duos in the Big 12. But much like Brooks, Sermon is also lagging behind his impressive numbers from 2018.
"It's tough losing a teammate and a brother," Brooks said. "We're focused on winning this game of course, but it's just hard losing somebody like that ... We're going to do whatever we can to cheer him up and keep going."
With Sermon out, Brooks, junior Rhamondre Stevenson and sophomore T.J. Pledger will likely be the focal point of the running back room.
With the Sooners traveling to Waco, Texas to take on No. 13 Baylor (9-0, 6-0 Big 12), Brooks and the running game will face their toughest challenge of the season thus far.
The Bears allow 128.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks 27th nationally and first in the Big 12. Despite Sermon's injury, Brooks said the running game will still be largely by committee.
"T.J.'s always focused, always locked in he's a great back and I can't wait to see him do something on Saturday," Brooks said. "(Stevenson) can help out a lot, too. We have so many talented backs in the backfield that we're not just going to rely on one guy."