Nov 11, 2023; Provo, Utah, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Rocco Becht (3) calls a play against the Brigham Young Cougars in the first half at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State’s 10-7 loss to Ohio in September will be looked at as a turning point in the 2023 season for the team.
Beyond wins and losses, for both quarterback Rocco Becht and first-year offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase, it was the precursor for a needed, rapid improvement on the offensive side of the ball.
“I think we got a lot better idea of who we were, of who our playmakers were and what they did well,” Scheelhaase said. “Obviously, I got a lot better feel of Rocco. I think it starts at the quarterback (position) and what he does well – just to have a ton of confidence on the field. Obviously, you want that guy to be confident week in and week out and I think we all got a better feel of that – starting with the quarterback and moving throughout the rest of the offense in general.”
Scheelhaase attributes a portion of the team’s success to the improvement Becht showed, which in turn saw rising numbers in the team’s efficiency on third down.
Iowa State was 2/11 on third down in the season opening win over UNI and just 3/11 in Athens. Although the mark in the first trio of games was cushioned by a 7/18 outlier against Iowa, the progress slowly ramped up.
The Cyclones were 6/17 on third down in their win over Oklahoma State, and put together three-straight games with a third down efficiency of 50 percent or better in games against Baylor, Kansas and BYU.
“He started to feel confident in the guys that were around him and the plays that they can make – how he could distribute the ball in different ways and how he could get us in the best place,” Scheelhaase said. “You saw him just growing that throughout the season. Again, at quarterback it’s going to come down to situational football. I think our red zone execution and third down execution started to grow as the season went. When you’re able to operate like that at quarterback, you’re going to have an offense that has success and that’s what I saw him grow at.”
Of Becht’s eight interceptions thrown this season, only three of them came in the team’s last seven games.
On top of it, the Cyclones enter Friday’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl with a 6-0 record when Becht doesn’t throw an interception.
Those numbers – and Becht’s confidence – helped Scheelhaase through the year.
“From start to finish, he had a great demeanor on the sideline,” Scheelhaase said. “He had a great feel of what I think we were trying to accomplish as an offense. That gave me a lot of confidence. What you saw him grow into – again confidence is key in that position. Being confident in what you were going out to execute play in and play out and being confident in the playmakers around you. That’s always critical at quarterback.”
Friday, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN, he’ll have another chance to showcase it.