AMES, Iowa — Paul Rhoads ventured around the question Monday when asked who will start at quarterback for his Iowa State University Cyclones Saturday against No. 22 Oklahoma.
Wednesday, Rhoads used more exact words to reporters after the Cyclones' practice. Redshirt sophomore Grant Rohach will get his second career and second consecutive start, but fans should expect to see a similar rotation as they saw against TCU last week with Sam Richardson playing a handful of series.
With the knowledge he will start again, Rohach, a harsh self-critic, said he's got to elevate his play or ISU (1-8, 0-6) will struggle again.
"I don't think I graded out very well," Rohach said of his 18-for-38, 148-yard performance in a 21-17 loss to the Horned Frogs. "I made poor choices with the ball, which can't happen with being the quarterback. Mechanically I was poor ... I was throwing bad balls and putting guys in bad places to catch balls."
Rhoads said the film showed Rohach was pretty accurate in his assessment of his play, but because Richardson has a thumb injury that hampers his accuracy and strength of throws, Rohach is ISU's best option at quarterback right now.
Rhoads was also quick to say Rohach can be much better.
"It was not very good," Rhoads said of Rohach against TCU. "He missed too many passes. He made too many poor decisions. He is the first to recognize that and as I told you after the game Saturday it was too premature for me to do that, but it was not for him.
"He knew it and he knew it when he faced you and professed that right away and the film certainly backed that up."
Rohach produced those numbers against one of the top pass defenses in the country, and the challenge doesn't get any easier against the Sooners (7-2, 4-2). OU ranks ninth in the country in pass defense (182.2) and 13th in the nation in total defense (330.3).
But after struggling in the first half against TCU, Rohach made better choices and had better mechanics in the third quarter, including directing a couple of drives where the Cyclones played at a tempo that was much faster than seen this season. The key to those drives was accuracy on first and second down.
"In the third quarter, I think honestly it was making those early completions and once we got first downs and a second first down we were able to hit them with more tempo which is what we want to do as an offense," Rohach said.
Rohach was just 4 of 12 for 47 yards in the first half against TCU, including 1 of 6 in the first quarter as ISU failed to score on its opening possession for the ninth straight game and went three-and-out on three of its first four possessions.
But Rohach was 14 of 27 after the break for 101 yards, including 6 of 12 for 57 yards in the third quarter.
On one third-quarter drive, which ended in a Cole Netten field goal that gave ISU its first lead since the Texas game, Rohach had completions of 13, 16 and 12 to three different receivers on consecutive pass attempts.
And while Rohach said he didn't have any more nerves than usual during his first start, his confidence is on the rise.
"You face some nerves in the game, obviously," he said. "It's a big thing to get your first start. But I think as the game went on, I became more calm and even now I have more confidence in myself and in our offense because of how we played in the third quarter."