MORGANTOWN - The Iowa State team that comes to Mountaineer Field Saturday to face West Virginia is a lot like almost every other team in the Big 12.In other words, it has had quarterback issues this season.No, the Cyclones' problems this season don't rest solely at the feet of the quarterback. This is still a team that has won just twice, so there are obviously other deficiencies.Iowa State ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring defense and total defense and that can't be pinned on quarterback play.
But like so many other teams in the league, the Cyclones are beginning to become settled behind center. Redshirt freshman Grant Rohach didn't even play during the first five games of the season and then began playing in relief of Sam Richardson at midseason.Now, though, he has started three straight games and Saturday night completed 15 of 20 passed for 300 yards and two touchdown passes in a 34-0 shutout of Kansas.In other words, it seems Rohach is settling in.
"It gives me confidence with a victory,'' Rohach said after Saturday's win at frigid (8 degrees) Jack Trice Stadium. "Now I just need to move on from this week and focus on West Virginia next week."The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) face Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the finale of disappointing seasons for both teams.This is the second season in a row that West Virginia has faced an Iowa State team near the end of the season that was adjusting to a change in quarterbacks. Last year it was Richardson who had taken over and the Mountaineers handled him well enough to win. Richardson completed just 13 of 31 passes, and although he threw for three touchdowns and ran for 119 yards, the Mountaineers won the game 31-24.Richardson never fulfilled his promise, though, and was eventually replaced by Rohach. And while Rohach struggled early, his confidence has been growing of late. He was 21-of-34 passing for 179 yards against Oklahoma a week ago, and even though the Cyclones lost 48-10, coach Paul Rhoads saw something."The Oklahoma game. He left the Oklahoma game feeling better about his play,'' Rhoads said. "On Tuesday, he was confident and relaxed on the field. He was a different guy. He played to his ability [against Kansas]."Still, no matter the growing confidence or the win over Kansas, this has still been an agonizing season for Iowa State. The Cyclones began the season by losing to Northern Iowa and the team's only two wins are against Tulsa and Kansas, teams with 3-8 records. The highlights have mostly been close losses, including a controversial ending in a 31-30 defeat to Texas."Towards the end of the season, it's not a season that we were predicting,'' Rohach said. "But to get momentum in the later part of the season is really good."Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1