Monday Musings: Paul Rhoads’ toughest challenge yet

Scholarship one through 85, this is a very talented Iowa State football team. And yes, like all of you, I did witness (unfortunately) Saturday’s 71-7 drubbing via the hands of now fifth-ranked Baylor.

It is youthful and unproven talent, but talent indeed. As any coach will tell you though, talent isn’t everything.

Over the first four years of the Paul Rhoads era at Iowa State, the one constant praise you could give the Cyclones was that they were as resilient of a bunch as there was in the Big 12. For the most part, those Cyclones really were going to battle with less talent than the opposition. Even so, Iowa State found a way to claw its way into bowl contention in three of four years, something that has rarely occurred in Ames throughout the course of history.

Today, Iowa State finds itself at 1-5 and backed up against a wall the size of Andre the Giant. Rhoads’ teams have been backed into corners before. Usually, they have bounced back and found the light on the other side. But that was with studs like Jake Knott and A.J. Klein leading the way. In many cases, that lack of talent was covered up by mental toughness. 

This team is raw obviously, but talented as I’ve already covered. But does it possess the mental toughness to snap back from the worst loss in the history of Iowa State football? 

I’m not worried about quarterbacks, the offensive line or giving up a mile of yardage per game on defense right now. To me, the real question revolves around the fortitude of this team. They are injured. This program has lost eight of its last nine games. Fans are restless.

What is there to be confident about right now?

Paul Rhoads has never faced a coaching job larger than this one. He has done it before, but under different circumstances. I am confident that he will do it again. The next week is sure to be an interesting one. 

On Iowa State football…

*** The good news is that it won’t get any harder from here for Iowa State. Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor (Iowa State’s first three Big 12 opponents) are a combined 10-0 right now.

*** Regarding Iowa State’s quarterback situation – I have a couple of thoughts on that. 

First, I really don’t think it is fair to judge Grant Rohach based off of what went down on Saturday. When Rohach entered the game, that debacle was already over. Finishing the game was simply a formality. The offensive line couldn’t block Taylor Swift. The defense had already been sucked into that black hole that makes the Bears so dangerous. Everyone, from the line to the coaches in the booth, was pressing at that moment. It was a nearly impossible situation for a rookie to excel in. I give Grant a pass on that one.

*** Still, it’s hard to argue that Sam Richardson gives this football team the best chance to win games, if he is healthy of course. There is a reason why the coaching staff waited that long to play Rohach in the first place. I think that we all saw that on Saturday night. Point is, the line has to block for the backup too.

*** Which brings me to this: Does it really matter who the quarterback is until everything else gets figured out? 

*** Oklahoma State currently has a quarterback problem of its own. From an outsider’s perspective, senior Clint Chelf looks a little bit like OSU’s Jared Barnett. An intangibles guy who can get the job done, but won’t do anything crazy either. J.W. Walsh is more the Steele Jantz of that team. Flashier, but not as trustworthy. That’s what I saw on Saturday at least.

*** Oklahoma State turned the football over four times against the Horned Frogs but don’t read too much into that statistic. Even without Devonte Fields, TCU’s defense is ridiculous – the best in the Big 12 – no questions asked. It’s just too bad that Gary Patterson’s offense is comparable to what we’re seeing at Iowa State right now. TCU’s best plays are broken ones that Treyvon Boykin just runs with.

*** Boykin might be the toughest player in the Big 12. The kid is just getting killed out there but he always bounces right back up. It is similar to Sam Richardson’s situation really. 

*** Iowa State is going to have a hell of a time covering Oklahoma State’s wide receivers. Josh Stewart just abused Jason Verrett on Saturday in route to a 10 reception, 141-yard day at the office.

*** A quick note, Paul Rhoads did not have his weekly press conference today due to a conflict. This was announced last week so please don’t read into the Baylor game outcome being the reason why. Rhoads will take the stage tomorrow at 11:35.

Hoops coverage coming tomorrow

I am off to Kansas City this evening for the Big 12’s basketball media day that will go down tomorrow. Check out CF all day tomorrow for coverage of the event that will be presented to you by M.J. Properties in Ankeny.