Here’s part one of the transcript from Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads’ weekly press conference Part two will be up later this afternoon here at CycloneFanatic.com.
We are excited to be heading into the final week of our regular season and the final Big 12 game with an opportunity to play for a winning record. We know that it is going to take an excellent week of preparation to be able to compete against a very good Missouri football team. We got that started in a very positive fashion last night with practice. We need that to continue throughout the rest of the week to give us an opportunity.
The bowl situation in the Big 12 is nothing short of crazy. Do you find yourself peeking at that or is that completely off of your radar?
PR: Have you seen Alexander (Danario) catch the football for Missouri? I have not taken any time to peek at that. We have our hands full enough preparing for a very good Missouri football team. They have an outstanding quarterback. They have an outstanding offensive football team. They’ve got a 6-4 football team that has an eye on being 8-4. We’ve got plenty to worry about and work for this week.
Passing wise, has Austen regained his sharpness yet?
PR: I don’t know if there is a level he got to and he’s gotten back to it or not. If he went from North Dakota State to Baylor and that’s the plateau or his benchmark right now. I don’t know what that is to be honest with you. He improved from Oklahoma State to Colorado for sure. There were some throws that we missed and yards that we left out there that we’ve got to find a way to capture as we head into this last game. He can play better than he did on Saturday. We’ll work to do that and I expect him to do that. He needs physical practice reps. He needs mental practice reps. This is the third straight week that he’ll get them. We again count on him to play a better football game.
By watching the Missouri/Baylor game, it appears that Missouri is susceptible against the pass right?
PR: I don’t know if they are susceptible. They play very good run defense, which is going to force us to probably have to throw the ball more. The fact that we run the ball more efficiently than we throw it, that could potentially create some problems for us. Our accuracy and time in the passing game is going to have to be very sharp for us to have success.
Does Danario Alexander remind you of any other receivers you’ve seen?
PR: I don’t know as I watch him if this person or that person came to mind. He’s got great height. Versus a smallish secondary, that scares you. He catches everything that is thrown his way. You watch him sometimes limping on the field and you think that he can’t go full speed. The next thing you know he is leaving everybody behind. He is a very, very talented football player in his own right, without even having to make comparisons.
What about Blaine Gabbert? How does he fit into the mix?
PR: He’s better than a game manager. He can throw it. He’s got a strong arm. He can throw it down the field. He can throw it accurate underneath. He is getting back to full strength. He was hobbling on an ankle early in the season. It doesn’t seem to be plaguing him anymore. He’s got accuracy and mobility. He is a lot better than a game manager. He has the ability to beat you.
What is Fred Garrin’s status?
PR: He is fine. He practiced yesterday and actually practiced pretty well. He got so tight at halftime. We thought the medical attention that he received would allow him to loosen back up. It didn’t. He ran and did everything yesterday.
Is A-Rob back to full speed?
PR: I would say so. He had more ability to make people miss. He had more ability to accelerate and leave people behind on Saturday afternoon. He is completely off of the list from a groin injury standpoint. They are just doing normal strength exercises with him like they would anybody else on the team.
Were you hesitant at all to give him that many carries?
PR: No. I couldn’t have even told you that he had that many carries until I learned about it after the game. No. There is no risk or danger in his health right now in feeding him so to speak.
He joined the 1,000-yard club on Saturday. Can you talk about his affect on your offense this year?
PR: His production and the production of our football team running the ball has been very critical to our success. I don’t think that we went into the season with any kind of percentages or yardage marks that we wanted hit. We don’t go into a game that way other than we want to take what a team gives us. If we think that we can run it, we’re going to run it. If we think we can throw it, we’ll do that. Alexander’s individual success, I think has lifted the team as we’ve moved forward and continue to move forward.
In your six wins, you’ve held the opposition to 17 points or less. Did you have any clue that your defense would be this good before the season?
PR: No, I don’t believe that we did. But we headed into the season knowing that was going to be the most important defensive statistic equal to turnovers. We’ve done very well on both ends. Those two marks for our defense have allowed us to play successful defense. I think that we’re 11th in the conference in total defense. That is nothing to wave the flag about. When you turn the ball over and you turn the ball over in the red-zone, and you keep people out of your end zone, you have a chance to play and win any football game.
Can you talk about the job that Wally (Burnham) has done?
PR: It starts with teaching a staff. When you’ve done it as long as Wally has, you take some things for granted. You can assume that people know what you are talking about in a room. So you have to re-teach the staff. You start with the players. Some of these players have learned from three different coaches, three different coordinators and three different position coaches. That takes time. To arrive where he has, where he is with comparatively speaking ability wise is not in the heap, it speaks volumes for his ability to lead men on both ends, coaches and players.