Head coach Paul Rhoads of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates with the marching band after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 20-17, on September 13, 2014 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Football

Take Five: Q&A with an Iowa State beat writer

Posted October 30th, 2015

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Each week of the season, the American-Statesman will interview the beat writer of Texas’ opponent. This week, the Ames Tribune’s Bobby La Gesse — @BobbyLaGesse — offers insight on Saturday’s Texas-Iowa State matchup:

On a scale of 1-10, how surprised were you that Iowa State had made changes at offensive coordinator and quarterback?

Offensive coordinator was a 10. Quarterback was a 1. 

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There were rumblings of head coach Paul Rhoads and offensive coordinator Mark Mangino butting heads over issues like personnel and play calling for weeks. Rhoads called out the offensive staff twice in his first six post-game press conferences. So there was some foreshadowing of it all, but having things get to a point where a coordinator is dismissed midseason over philosophical differences, not the performance of the offense, is pretty rare. I didn’t think the issues would boil over to the point where Mangino was out as offensive coordinator with five games left.

The writing was on the wall about Joel Lanning becoming the starting quarterback after he led the Cyclones to four touchdown drives when he replaced Sam Richardson at No. 2 Baylor last week. Richardson has struggled in two of his last three games, and the more Lanning has played, the better he’s looked. The decision to start Lanning was a logical one for Rhoads. 

Was the change needed more at OC or at QB?

Those around the program may say at offensive coordinator. I’ve heard from multiple sources that the Cyclones will be able to tweak some things with the offense that will help the Cyclones play to their strengths (that means relying more on the run). 

Those in the stands at Jack Trice Stadium may say at quarterback. Richardson took a lot of heat in recent weeks about his play and fans were clamoring for Lanning to get more playing time for most of October. 

I think the changes at both provide ISU with its best chance to reach its potential on offense. What ISU does best is run the ball. The Cyclones leaned on the run more when Lanning was in than Richardson. Starting Lanning will likely force the Cyclones to keep giving the ball to running back Mike Warren. With the way he’s played the last month, that’s never a bad option.  

If these changes don’t result in wins, might head coach Paul Rhoads be next to go?

That very well could be the case. He entered the season on a hot seat. The Cyclones won only five games the last two seasons. 

The team is showing progress. This team is better than the last two, but it’s not resulting in wins and a portion of the fan base is already calling for a change. Athletic director Jamie Pollard is playing his cards close to the vest here and isn’t tipping his hand on what he’ll do.

Runningback Mike Warren #2 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the second half in front of safety Greg Allen #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks on October 3, 2015 at Jack Trice Stadium, in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Runningback Mike Warren #2 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the second half in front of safety Greg Allen #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks on October 3, 2015 at Jack Trice Stadium, in Ames, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Among the bright spots is Mike Warren, the Big 12’s second-ranked rusher. Not bad for a redshirt freshman. What has contributed to his success?

First is his talent. There are a few schools in the Big 12, primarily in his home state of Oklahoma, likely kicking themselves that they missed him (he didn’t play much until his senior year, so he was an under-the-radar player. Plus, there were some academic concerns). He’s the total package at running back with speed, vision, a quick burst and despite being only 200 pounds, he can fight for extra yards when needed. 

It also helps that ISU made a commitment to improving the run game this season and the offensive line run blocking is at its highest level since at least 2011. 

Complete this sentence: Texas fans are overlooking Iowa State because _______.

The Cyclones outscored second-ranked Baylor 20-10 in the second half. Yes, the game was over in the first half, when Baylor took a 35-0 lead, but ISU may have found the key to any future success this year in the final 30 minutes last week.

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