ISU QB Rocco Becht’s feel for the game sharpens as road trip to Cincinnati looms

Iowa State Cyclones’ quarterback Rocco Becht (3) celebrates with fans after winning 27-14 over TCU in the Jack Trice Legacy Game at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

 AMES — “All Rocco Becht.”

 That’s how Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell described two pivotal and pulse-pounding plays by his redshirt freshman quarterback in last Saturday’s dominant 27-14 win over TCU at Jack Trice Stadium.

 The first — a fourth-and-3 conversion in the third quarter — came after multiple checkdowns.

 The second — a second-and-goal touchdown later in that drive — forged a 24-7 lead and essentially extinguished any hopes for a Horned Frogs comeback.

  Both passes went to senior tight end Easton Dean and both hinged on Becht’s rapidly improving decision-making ability.

 “The fourth and three, it’s the fifth option he gets to,” said Campbell, whose team (3-3, 2-1 Big 12) travels to Cincinnati (2-3, 0-2) for its first-ever meeting with the Bearcats at 11 a.m. Saturday (FS1). “What’s ironic is we actually ran the exact same play against TCU (in a 62-14 loss) the year before and he threw an interception and it’s a pick-six. Same play. His ability to go through the progressions, the ability for him to work through it and to get there, I just thought it was huge.”

 Becht’s evolving feel for the game mirrors that of his teammates. ISU picked off four TCU passes in last week’s win — and pushed its total number of interceptions to ten this season, which is tied for the third-most nationally. The Cyclones picked off just seven passes all of last season, which tied for 101st among FBS teams.

 “It just comes kind of naturally when you start to get a feel for what the coverages are doing and what the routes are,” ISU veteran defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said of the recent spike in aerial takeaways. “(We have) a little bit of experience there and some guys just kind of have a knack (for it). They can feel receivers and see the ball and the quarterback and they have the vision of this whole room. They’re not looking down a tunnel and that allows guys to make some plays.”

 More such plays will be needed against a Cincinnati team that’s reeling from a three-game losing streak, but showcases plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The Bearcats field the Big 12’s second-best rushing defense (100.4 yards per game) as well as the conference’s third-best rushing offense (220.2 yards per game).

 “It’s a great team overall,” said sophomore tailback Eli Sanders, who rushed for a career-high 99 yards and a touchdown against the Horned Frogs. “A great D-line, great linebackers, great secondary, (so) it’s gonna be a dogfight and it’s gonna take all of us.”

 Especially Becht, who has thrown six touchdown passes to just two interceptions in his first three starts against Big 12 competition. As his confidence grows, so goes the offense, which will play four of its last six regular-season games on the road.

 “Well be prepared and we’re ready for the competition that’s to come for us,” Becht said.

 As for his calm precision in executing those two clutch throws in last week’s win, Becht said his ability to quickly process information comes as a matter of course as his rep count ratchets up and he tries to counter increasingly complex defensive looks.

 “We practice these fourth down plays and goal line plays every week,” he said. “Seeing every look that they can give us is important for us.”

 So Becht trusts “the process,” and in turn, his teammates fully trust him.

 “We rock behind Rocco,” Sanders said. “We have full confidence (in) him. Everyone is poured into Rocco and believes in Rocco. So him knowing that and him trusting us, I believe he can do great things.”


Senior offensive lineman Jake Remsburg became eligible to return this week after serving a six-game suspension stemming from the state’s sports gambling probe. Remsburg was never found to have gambled on any ISU sporting events but still was suspended for half the season by the NCAA. He did, however, continue to practice with the team in advance of his reinstatement.

“Obviously we all think the world of Jake,” Campbell said. “He’s been such a great senior human in our football program and over the test of time, he’s overcome multiple obstacles. … We’re excited to have Jake back.”