Rhoads draws support from Pollard
Paul Rhoads had just stepped into the entryway of Applebee’s in Ames when his boss began to offer an answer to a caller during the call-in show Monday night.
“I look forward to continuing that journey with coach Rhoads,” Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard continued in his answer to the caller.
It turns out, that message has been a consistent one from Pollard to Rhoads during what has been a tumultuous 2014 season. The Cyclones are 2-9 and are still without a Big 12 win entering Saturday's finale, but Pollard has stood behind his coach and the footprint he holds for the future of the program.
“Jamie and I have such an outstanding relationship and are in constant communication, so the support, the encouragement, etc. that he gave on air is the same thing that he’s been giving to me on a weekly basis as we’ve hit this rough stretch,” Rhoads said. “He’s aware of the philosophy, he’s aware of the direction and certainly he’s supportive of that.”
There have been dashes of hope in an otherwise dismal season. Iowa State has had near-wins against Kansas State, Texas and Texas Tech, but losses by less than one score still remain losses on Rhoads’ record. The Cyclones, meanwhile, have battled a barrage of injuries (10 major season-enders) and a lack of depth has prevented them from coming close to replacing those bodies.
What has followed has been criticism from many directions. Rhoads has, admittedly, put blinders on to remain focused on improving the product on the field, but that criticism is not lost on him, either.
“People have been critical? Huh. I would expect so at 2-9, I would certainly expect them to be critical, especially on the heels of a 3-9 season,” Rhoads said. “Regardless of what the history is of any program, people still want to win, people still expect victories and so forth. Nobody expects them more so than I do.”
Iowa State will enter Saturday against No. 3 TCU sitting at 5-18 in the last two seasons. For now, Pollard is still strongly behind his coach.
“It doesn’t mean he’ll keep me if I keep losing, it’s not that kind of relationship, this is a business world, but we all get that,” Rhoads said. “My plan is to win in 2015 and not have to be worried about that.”
Bibbs still questionable for career finale
Whether E.J. Bibbs will play the final game of his career in Fort Worth, Texas, will have nothing to do with practice this week, but rather with how doctors feel about his body come Saturday morning.
“The doctors will want him to go out Saturday in the stadium and see where he’s at,” Rhoads said of his tight end. “We’re not going to put any stress on it leading up to it. It won’t be, ‘Let’s see how it is Wednesday at practice.’ It’ll be when it’s time to go play the game how he’s doing.”
Bibbs, who had meniscus surgery two weeks before the season, started off slow, but has come on strong as the knee has strengthened. He was a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award and has 45 receptions and eight touchdowns this season, one shy of tying the Iowa State single-season record.
The senior sat out last week as the knee has hampered him since taking a hit against Texas Tech on Nov. 22.
Mutcherson remains suspended through Saturday
T.J. Mutcherson was nowhere to be found in Iowa State’s 13-point loss to West Virginia on Saturday, and coach Paul Rhoads revealed afterward that his starting safety hadn’t lived up to the culture of the program.
Mutcherson’s suspension won’t end Saturday as Rhoads said it’ll remain in effect through the season finale. He does remain on the team, Rhoads said, and Darian Cotton remains atop the depth chart after starting against West Virginia.