Rohach Finds Groove Against Jayhawks

It may have come against the Big 12's second-worst passing defense, but for the first time in his young career, Rohach looked like he belonged

The conditions as they were, this was going to be a game for the football purists, smashmouth and low-scoring, a fullback's dream.

In some ways it was. The Cyclones and Jayhawks combined for 84 rushes, Iowa State scoring twice on the ground. But it was Grant Rohach's arm that had the Cyclones up 7-0 and then 20-0, after two field goals, a surprising time for the quarterback to record a career day, considering the elements.

"In warmups I anticipated us to run the ball a little more," said Rohach, who threw for a career-high 300 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-20 passing and tossed in an interception. "It's kind of obvious running the ball will be crucial in this game. So yeah, I think it's kind of odd to put up those kind of numbers."

Midway through the first quarter, Rohach saw running back Aaron Wimberly streaking down the seam uncovered, Kansas sending an ill-timed blitz. Rohach slipped a bit, regained his footing and then launched his best pass of the season, right in Wimberly's arms for a 58-yard touchdown.

In the third quarter, Rohach hit Quenton Bundrage on an easy bubble screen and the wide receiver did the rest, breaking a tackle and pirouetting into the end zone.

Rohach connected with tight end E.J. Bibbs twice for 71 yards, fed Justin Coleman's career day, eight catches for 78 yards, and tossed a perfect strike to Dondre Daley for 30 yards on a dig route to set up a Cole Netten field goal.

"With Bundrage, Justin Coleman, Dondre Daley and E.J. Bibbs, those big plays by those guys, it's easy," Rohach said.

The roughest part of playing in sub-10 temperatures, Rohach said, was not gripping the ball, as hand warmers and adrenaline make that easier than it seems.

Rather, it's trying to find traction on an icy, slippery turf that looked more like a skating rink than a football field.

If that's challenging for a quarterback and a wide receiver, imagine how difficult it must be for a defensive back, who has to guess and react, and keep up, while essentially on skates.

"That's a thing we keyed on," Rohach said. "First walking out there, we knew even our defensive backs would be struggling because it's really hard to react with that kind of footing out there so that's something we took advantage of."

As Sam Richardson's season is essentially lost because of a thumb injury, Rohach has another opportunity to gain some momentum going into the offseason competition via next week's game at West Virginia, the last of the year.

After some dreadful performances — 11-for-24, two interceptions against Kansas State and 18-for-38 against TCU — Rohach put together a nice first half against Oklahoma, moving the ball consistently against a tough defense, sparking his confidence. His Tuesday practice leading up to the Kansas game was his best of the season, he said.

It may have come against the Big 12's second-worst passing defense, but for the first time in his young career, Rohach looked like he belonged.

"Grant Rohach," Paul Rhoads said afterward, "has very good ability."

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