By Jason Elmquist
AMES, Ia. —
Perhaps Saturday’s game against Iowa State is exactly what’s needed for the Oklahoma State offense to finally get things figured out after sub-par performances in the first three games of Big 12 Conference play.
Not only is this a Cyclones team that has yet to win a conference game, but this is an Iowa State squad that doesn’t have nearly the bite it once did on defense.
No longer do linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott stalk the middle of the field. The loss of the two linebackers, both of whom were first-team all-conference players last year, has the Cyclones seeing significant dips on defense.
Last year’s Iowa State defense was third in the conference, giving up 23.9 points per game, even though they ranked near the bottom in yards given up. Through their first six games, the Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 with 36.7 points given up per game, which was boosted by the 71 points scored by Baylor last week. They are the only team in the league giving up more than 30 points per game.
“You definitely want to expose the guys that don’t have much experience,” OSU senior receiver Tracy Moore said. “We’ve definitely got to put pressure on them and try to get something generated on offense.”
Iowa State ranks ninth among Big 12 teams in rushing defense, with teams averaging just short of 200 yards on the defense, while the Cyclones stand in last by a large margin in pass defense, giving up nearly 300 yards through the air.
One thing that has been a constant for the Cyclones this year, is the same constant — or more like the same inconsistent — they have had the past few years. Iowa State for a third-straight season has questions surrounding the quarterback position.
Incumbent Sam Richardson, who started the last three games in 2012 as a redshirt freshman, has been less than impressive. His starting spot was in question earlier this week with Iowa State releasing a depth chart listing the starter to be either Richardson or redshirt freshman Grant Rohach.
Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads didn’t let the question linger — unlike his counterpart from Oklahoma State — and gave the nod to Richardson, who is averaging 209 yards a game with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. In Iowa State’s three conference losses, those numbers dropped drastically to 166 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Against the vaunted Baylor Bears, Richardson was 7 of 14 with 68 yards and an interception before being replaced by Rohach, who didn’t fair much better with 8 of 13 completed for 65 yards, an interception and ISU’s lone touchdown.
“We’re looking for the team to move down the field, we’re looking for first downs and we weren’t getting them,” Rhoads said in his weekly press conference. “So we put Grant into the ball game and tried to jump-start that and see what could get accomplished. Sam’s knowledge is far ahead, quite simply, from where Grant’s knowledge is — that’s just time and experience. ... He’s just got to make smarter decisions and quicker judgments.”