The plane ride home from Morgantown did not ease Paul Rhoads' mind and this morning the staff changes came down from on high as Rhoads announced Messingham and Pope would not return to the Cyclone coaching staff in 2014.
We were told a few weeks ago that Messingham knew he was out the door but the thought he could stay worked its way into everyone's consciousness after an 86 point outburst in the final two weeks of the season. For the sake of the program it turns out two games does not a coordinator make and Rhoads stuck to his guns and will be searching for a new offensive coordinator this off season.
Curiously, but maybe not once you dig deeper, Ken Pope was relieved of his duties as running backs coach. Pope was widely regarded as an excellent hire in 2009 with his experience at every level of college football and the season Alexander Robinson put together in 2009 (232 carries, 1,195 yards, six touchdowns) seemed to justify it. Robinson regressed slightly in 2010 and failed to break the 1,000 yard mark but was running behind an inexperienced offensive line and split carries with newcomer Shontrelle Johnson.
When 2011 rolled around the emergence of James White along with Johnson was apparent. Johnson was hurt in the fourth game of the season and didn't contribute the rest of the way, but White's 743 yards and eight touchdowns made it appear that the Cyclones may have stumbled on to a Robinson clone.
Once Messingham was promoted to offensive coordinator the glaring deficiencies with the running backs were exposed. White and Shontrelle combined to break 1,000 yards last year (barely) and if not for Aaron Wimberly early this season the running game would have been completely non-existent.
It's easy when looking back over the past few years to see that 2013 James White was the same player as 2011 James White, and for that it appears Pope was told to pack his bags. As was the story with the entire offense, it appears Tom Herman did more to set up his backs than we originally gave him credit for.
At least we'll always have the memory of Pope pounding chicken wings by the dozen at the first CycloneFanatic recruiting party.
The short comings of Messingham are well noted around here. He may have got this team to average 24.8 points per game this season, which was the highest in the Rhoads Era, but he did so on the back of 86 points in the final two weeks. There were still games where the offense woefully under performed. Most notably UNI, Iowa, and Baylor from this season.
Despite yesterday's come from behind win the reasons for Messingham to be let go were apparent from the start. The offense looked ill prepared again and failed to score on another opening drive - making them 0-12 on the season. Three three and outs to start followed by two critical turnovers in their own territory told you what we all knew: this offense lacked focus.
Now Rhoads turns his attention to hiring two new coaches once he returns from his off season recruiting trip. He is now afforded extra flexibility by firing two coaches and could bring in a combination OC/RBs coach to pair with a QB coach, or do the favored OC/QB coach pairing. This tweet from Mike Hlas sums it up perfectly:
Paul Rhoads hired a Tom Herman once. He needs another.— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) December 1, 2013