A complete transcript from the Q&A portion of Paul Rhoads’ weekly press conference that went down on Tuesday afternoon in Ames.
Q: Paul with the quarterbacks what was that you were seeing, or maybe it’s the stuff that you weren’t seeing, that’s kind of allowed this to become the competition this week?
Rhoads:Productivity. We were looking for the football team to move down the field. We were looking for first downs and we weren’t getting them. So we put Grant into the ballgame and try to jump start that and see what could get accomplished, didn’t really happen. Sam’s knowledge is far ahead quite simply of where Grant’s knowledge is. That’s just time and experience, that’s an important factor and will remain an advantage for Sam as the year goes along. Did not get banged up anymore for the first time this season, so he will be even healthier going into this game. Sam’s going to start, we plan on him playing at a higher level with his physical health, he’s got to make smarter decisions and quicker judgments.
Q: Paul there was that stretch in 2010 where you guys played Utah and Oklahoma back to back, really rough patch, couple lopsided games, then you go the very next week to Austin, Texas and win. What happened that week that allowed that team to make that turn, is any of that applicable to this week after last weekend.
Rhoads:That team, like this team, like is the nature of our program, kids never lost faith. We played very poorly in those two games, but our work, our preparation, our attitude was always strong and has remained that way with this football team. We continue to focus on all the things that needed to be done to help us play successful winning football and paid off down in Austin. Now, they were coming off a very emotional victory in Lincoln, Nebraska the week before. I think that combined with our two lopsided scores and the mindset of their players didn’t hurt us any.
Q: Does this team have some of those characteristics, what you see in the locker room, you talked about that after two tough losses they still believed. Teams are different, different people, different time and place, but are you seeing any of that?
Rhoads:I think that all of our teams have resembled those attributes that you were talking about. Up until the Baylor Fiasco our biggest loss was eight points and we had been in every single football game. We got waxed Saturday night and that hasn’t dampened their spirits or changed their attitude or how hard they’re going to prepare and work, not one bit.
Q: Paul could you expand on what you said about the offensive line and us not appreciating it as much, is part of it the fact that it starts with veterans and the veterans are the guys that teach the young guys?
Rhoads:With veterans you get a number of things. You get physical development with veteran players. Now that we are into the league a little bit and you start watching comparisons in teams, not citing any other teams, but you can see a big difference and that’s the first place you see it. As a defensive coordinator the first place I was looking was their O-line. The second place I was looking was accuracy of he quarterback. Now you are starting to see other teams, you’re seeing big differences, that you’re starting to see separation in the win-loss column because of it. You’ve got physical developments of it but then you also have the checks and nuances of it. When you’re facing a Texas Tech defense that moves around and disguises as much as they did. Then you have a Baylor who is starting to heat us up more because other people are having success with that, and having to pick up blitzes. Having a guy that’s talking to this guy and talking to this guy and everybody is working in concert is something that happens when you’re playing with a veteran offensive line, we certainly don’t have that right now.
Q: You had said after the game in Waco that the gameplan was to get Grant into the game heading into that week. Is the gameplan kind of the same this week, you would like to try to find a way to get him in again?
Rhoads: I’d love Sam Richardson to start the game and play extremely well and never have to think about it.
Q: With the offensive line you want continuity up there, this isn’t the first week that you haven’t had it. What do you guys have to do to clear a roadblock to get some succession on the offensive line?
Rhoads:Two obvious things: One is get the ball out of your hand so that protection doesn’t have to be a lengthy time factor. If we’re going to need more time because of certain route combinations we’ve got to protect with more people and better with more people. The running game is the same way, we have to get enough people blocking at the point of attack, and making that point of attack strategic based on who we are playing against.
Q: I know that there would be a lot to address after a game like Baylor, but if you had to choose one side of the ball, offensively or defensively, where do you see that you need to make a bigger stride this week?
Rhoads: Offensively, there is no question about it. Offensively and it’s not just the Baylor week it has been the two back to back weeks that we have been overall very unproductive and at times inept. We have gone 19 series without a first down in the last two weeks that is awful offensive football so no question the offensive side.
Q: With the record season ticket sales, it’s important to win no matter what, but how much more influence is there on a home win to get that fan base in two step again?
Rhoads: Well, we want to win. I don’t care if we are playing on the road, in Jack Trice, or on Johnny Majors’ practice field. I count on an energized crowd that brings their excitement about Cyclone football to Jack Trice Stadium this Saturday at 11 o’clock and our football team will play energized and hopefully one will feed the other and vice versa. We will be out there playing good football and playing toward success.
Q: Coach I know as you move forward you want to move on and put the loss behind you. How to do balance moving ahead but with the need to look back and correct those mistakes and not harp on that loss Saturday?
Rhoads:You don’t harp on victory. You don’t harp on defeat. You’ve got to learn every week whether you win or lose. Teams that are winning they are really focused on that improvement and we are not there yet. It’s easy for those guys to say the right thing as they’re doing the right thing and moving on it’s more challenging for a team that’s struggling to do the same. But, you don’t linger with either but learn from the good and the bad and improve each going week.
Q: Paul your return units have had two consecutive really good games. What is it that’s allowing them to do so well for you guys and what does that add to you guys as a team?
Rhoads: I think a good plan first off. I think Todd Sturdy and Shane Burnham have put together very good plans week to week as we’ve gone. I think that higher understanding of that plan by our kids and then execution. It doesn’t start or end with the return guy but he is pretty important and our return guy is playing pretty good, whoever that is Aaron got a chance to get in and do that on Saturday.
Q: Where is Jansen Watson at physically? Is this ankle, I know he was hurt a lot last season as well, is this something that never got to 100 percent before?
Rhoads: This was Texas specific, the injury that took place. If everybody in this room said, ‘he has a sprained ankle,’ I think of the old rolled over sprained ankle. That is not what he had, that is not what Sam had. Jevohn Miller did this severely in a Wednesday practice two weeks ago and played Saturday. Those kinds of ankles it’s amazing what they can do and get you back from one of those now. Jansen tried to break and he came up high so it is more back in the Achilles piece. He can run but he can’t break. He can’t stop and being a defensive back and having to start and stop with the receivers is critically important. I plan on him running with our ones today and being the starter on Saturday. I think he was close enough this past Saturday with another seven days he will be ready to go.
Q: Coach, do you bring up the game two years ago here at Jack Trice Stadium? Do you need to? How much does that factor into this preparation?
Rhoads:No, no factor, I talked about a football team back in 2001 to our football team that was 1-5 and went on from there and did a number of good things. That victory over Oklahoma State in 2011 is irrelevant to this particular ballgame.
Q: Paul what do you see from the Oklahoma State defense? They seem to be as good as anybody else.
Rhoads:First of all there are a lot of similarities to what they were doing under Bill Young, who I have a great deal of respect for, Coach Spencer has just added to that. I think the kids are confident in what they are doing. They swarm to the ball, they tackle well, they bring a nice mix of pressure and play zone. They have great players at every level. What I mean by that is they have great players on the D-line, there are great players at the linebacker level, and there’s great players in the secondary. That doesn’t mean that all three or four are that level, but when you have great players at every level you can play pretty sound defense.
Q: After all the hard work, starting with that win in Austin and you guys beat Oklahoma State, there were bowl games in there, do you personally think that a loss like last Saturday was behind the program based on the progress you had seen?
Rhoads: Not with the youngsters on this particular football team, no I didn’t think we were past that. You’ve got ups and downs in the cycles as you build something. We knew going into this year there were going to be a number of challenges. Did I see Saturday’s outcome coming? Absolutely not, at 6:01 I would have told you, so would have every one of our players and coaches, we were ready to go compete and take the game to the end. But, when you’re playing the top offense in the country scoring and total numbers and you don’t start fast and you don’t give you team a belief that you’re going to be able to score with them things can get out of hand.
Q: Sometimes coaches and teams in these situations try to move on quickly. Did you guys watch the film or is that one you don’t watch?
Rhoads: Absolutely, there were things to learn off the film in all phases, special teams, offense, and defense. Just finishing up the first half of the season which that game was, you better still be learning and figuring out what it is you need to do better, and the film gave us an opportunity to do that.
Q: With all the problems on the offensive line, is there any silver lining being able to get guys experience that you didn’t think would get a chance to play this season?
Rhoads: I think that the silver lining piece is both right now short term and long term. We are going to benefit, not just on the offensive line but on the whole team, 2014 and 2015 we are going to benefit from all these snaps that freshman and sophomore are playing right now. But, we are also benefited from games seven through 12 as they get these snaps.
Q: Any of the guys that you have thrown out there pleasantly surprised you at all?
Rhoads:Oni Omoile has come on. We were hoping that this would be a year that he could and he has. Daniel Burton is probably playing above expectations as a redshirt freshman. Those two come to mind quickly.
Q: Coach what are you seeing in your seniors? Obviously a lot of deep resolve in those guys throughout their careers. What are they showing you at the midpoint of their senior season?
Rhoads: The leadership, the resolve, this senior group has that, maybe even more than the 2010 group as we came off those awful losses. I got to be honest with you, the Utah and Oklahoma losses, I felt more sick after than this blowout because of the nature that this thing went so quickly and how explosive this Baylor offense is. This is our first group of fifth seniors. That group is special to us. They are the first group we brought in, the first freshman class, our first training camp group and so forth. They don’t want to go out this way, they have had a number of great runs here and great experiences, they don’t want to go out as Cyclones with an awful taste in their mouths and they are doing what they can to change it.
Q: What makes Josh Stewart such a dangerous player for Oklahoma State?
Rhoads:The thing I am seeing with offenses and offensive stars is the speed of which they play at. He plays fast and he also has the patience and understanding of certain feel routes or return game stuff, when he has to let it happen a little bit. When it is time to play fast the great players I’m seeing this season play really fast in their pads and he does that.
Q: You said the film told you a lot about the quarterbacks. What did you see from Sam and Grant that made you decide Sam would be the guy that starts on Saturday?
Rhoads:The number one reason is the knowledge that he has overall, pre-snap and post-snap. There are things that Grant is just not there and he will be a step behind. We don’t need to be step behind, we need to start getting at speed level or a step ahead as a football team, Sam’s knowledge gives him the opportunity to do that. He needs to get past some indecisiveness and play at the speed that he can match up with.
Q: I know you said the 2011 win is irrelevant for this game, but from a simple standpoint of what it meant for the program and the fact that it is the same team does that give any confidence?
Rhoads: It’s not something that you roll from one season to another and say, “oh this is team X we are going to roll out our helmet and play at a higher level.” I hope that we don’t have that emotional fluctuation. It will be October 26 the opponent will be Oklahoma State and we are going to play our best to beat them.