Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads put what was shaping to be a week-long quarterback controversy to bed on Tuesday, saying the Cyclones would start Sam Richardson on Saturday against No. 19 Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12).
"I'd love Sam Richardson to start the game and play extremely well and not even have to think about [playing backup Grant Rohach]," Rhoads said.
Richardson has started every game for Iowa State this season despite a sprained right ankle which has limited his ability to not only scramble but to also throw a consistent deep ball, as the ankle is uncomfortable to plant off of. But he didn't suffer any hits in the 71-7 loss to Baylor that worsened the injury.
"Sam's knowledge [of the game] is ahead of Grant's," Rhoads said. "That's an important factor and will remain an advantage."
Rohach, a redshirt freshman from California, replaced Richardson midway through the second quarter. Neither put up an inspiring stat line: Richardson completed 50 percent of his passes (7-for-14) for 68 yards and an interception, Rohach completed 61.5 percent of his throws (8-for-13) for 65 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The ESPN metric Total QBR, which takes every play and its context into account, assigned Richardson a 35.1 rating out of 100. Rohach earned a dispiriting 1.2 QBR. For comparison's sake, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty received a 96.1 rating while his backup Seth Russell graded out with a 96.6 score.
On the season Richardson is completing 56.8 percent of his passes (108-for-190) for 1,255 yards, an average of 6.61 yards per attempt. He has 10 touchdowns and five interceptions and has been sacked 20 times. His adjusted QBR of 52.6 is a good notch lower than his earned QBR last season, 62.8.
As the Cyclones continue to operate with an in-flux offensive line amid their worst start since 2007, Rhoads made the decision there's too much wrong offensively to throw in a green signal-caller.
Watson still recovering from injury
Senior cornerback Jansen Watson has had his absence felt the last two games, losses to Texas Tech and Baylor.
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said Watson would run with the starters this week in practice and hopefully be ready to play Oklahoma State after suffering an ankle injury against Texas on Oct. 3.
Rhoads said Watson was nearly ready to play against Baylor on Saturday but wasn't green-lighted. While Watson can run fine, he's having a harder time backpedaling and making breaking moves, toward the ball, toward a receiver, skills that are hallmarks of a capable cornerback.
True freshman Nigel Tribune has started two games in Watson's absence.
Lichtenberg doubtful Saturday
Kyle Lichtenberg's season thus far nicely sums up the troubles of Iowa State's offensive line.
The fifth-year senior started the season-opener against Northern Iowa, but didn't grade out well and was benched for the Iowa game in favor of Brock Dagel. Lichtenberg was used as a bit player until the Texas Tech game, when starting quick tackle Jacob Gannon suffered an injury. Lichtenberg, with Gannon out, got the start against Baylor but then he was injured.
Lichtenberg is doubtful to play Saturday against Oklahoma State, meaning redshirt freshman Jacob Dunning will get the start.
What it also means is the Cyclones, for the seventh game this season, will have a different starting five. Head coach Paul Rhoads said he's never seen this happen (Paging: Elias Sports Bureau).
A lack of continuity at the line, along with a lack of experience — the probable starting lineup Saturday features, left to right, two redshirt freshmen, a junior, and two redshirt sophomores.
"I don't think you people realize how big of a challenge that is," Rhoads said Tuesday. "Not a league you want to be playing with with those type of young people. Don't talk about it often, certainly don't use it as an excuse, but you people need to appreciate it a bit."
The inexperience is especially troublesome against a defense that shows lots of presnap looks, like Texas Tech, when communication along the line is needed most. Oklahoma State doesn't do much of that, fortunately for Iowa State.
"Everybody working in concert is something that happens when you're playing with a veteran offensive line," Rhoads said.
There is in particular one thing the coaching staff can do to help compensate for a shaky line.
"Get the ball out of your hand so protection doesn't need to have a lengthy time factor and because of certain route combos [if more time is needed] we need to protect with more people," Rhoads said.
From WR to TE
With his body filling out, tall wideout Quan West is switching positions. The redshirt freshman is now considered a tight end.
"He continues to grow and develop physically," Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said.
The No. 186 wide receiver in the 2012 recruiting class, West is listed at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds. He tore his ACL in the first fall practice of 2012.
West caught 25 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns as a senior at Willis High in Texas.
Richardson hangs 'em up
Redshirt junior Pierce Richardson will not continue his football career after the season because of a lingering thigh injury.