Each week of the football season, Bevo Beat will interview a reporter who covers Texas’ upcoming opponent. Bobby La Gesse, sports editor of the Ames Tribune, answered five questions about the Cyclones. Follow him @BobbyLaGesse. Saturday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Q: Has new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino had as great of an impact on the offense as expected?
A: The expectations were higher than what Iowa State has shown so far on offense. The Cyclones are averaging 24.5 points. They averaged 24.8 points last season. The rushing game is struggling, though it did show signs of life last week. Mangino has been a big help with quarterback Sam Richardson. He’s coming off a career day, setting a program record with 37 completions and throwing for a career-high 351 yards against Toledo.
Iowa State returned virtually its entire offense. Yes, injuries (including season-ending ones to left tackle Brock Dagel and wide receivers Quenton Bundrage, P.J. Harris and Brett Medders) are a factor, but the offense was expected to be the backbone of the team. That hasn’t happened yet.
Q: Jamie Pollard lost $25,000 for criticizing Big 12 officials. But did the Iowa State athletic director earn some supporters among his fan base?
A: There was already support within the fan base, and the athletic department for what Pollard said before he said it. There is a belief with a portion of Cyclone Nation that refs are out to get the Cyclones and that they will make calls against Iowa State to help bigger name schools. This feeling has only intensified in the last year-plus, with a series of football and men’s basketball calls going against Iowa State, including the end of the Texas football game last year. With the fan base, Pollard’s comments were a lot like a politician playing to his base.
Q: Was Pollard right in essentially suggesting that the Big 12 has it out for Iowa State?
A: You really start to lose me when you bring up conspiracy theories about leagues out to get individual league members. Pollard implied that ISU voting against an eighth ref in football is the reason why calls are going against the Cyclones. If Pollard has proof he needs to make it public because otherwise he is questioning the integrity of the games being called, implying games are being fixed. Those are lofty accusations.
I understand the frustration coming out of Iowa State. Refs aren’t perfect and every fan base can rattle off four or five games where calls went against them at the wrong time. I thought Pollard should have used the controversial Oklahoma State touchdown as a time to start a conversation, in the Big 12 and nationally, about officiating and finding ways to improve it. That’s a better approach than just complaining about calls that didn’t go your way.
Q: Speaking of controversial calls, are the Cyclones still smarting over last year’s non-fumble against Texas? Will that serve as motivation this week?
A: The Iowa State football program, from head coach down to walk-on still thinks Jeremiah George caused, and recovered a fumble, late in the fourth quarter last season. It still bothers them, but the team said it has moved on. Coach Paul Rhoads and players both say the only time they thought of it this week was when reporters asked them about it.
Q: Finish this sentence … Paul Rhoads will return as Iowa State’s coach in 2015 if …
A: Nothing crazy happens the rest of the season. From all indications I get Rhoads is safe to return, even if Iowa State misses a bowl game for the second straight season. This was a rebuilding season for the Cyclones (even if those around the program wouldn’t publicly say it) and pieces should be in place for the team to make a run at a bowl next season.
Rhoads has a good relationship with Pollard. The Cyclones are selling out games. Suite sales on the bowled in south end zone project at Jack Trice Stadium are going well. I really think something big, like a program shaking scandal, is the only thing thing that could keep Rhoads from being the coach next season.
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