Head coach Paul Rhoads held his Week 1 press conference on Monday heading into the Cyclones’ first game of the season against Northern Iowa on Saturday (all aboard the hype train!). Rhoads touched on a number of topics regarding the current state of the team. Here are five highlights from Monday’s presser:
1. Avoiding another season opening upset to an FCS team
One of the main talking points leading up Iowa State’s opener against Northern Iowa has predictably been their inability to come away with wins against FCS squads the last two seasons. After losing to the Panthers in 2013 and North Dakota State in 2014, Rhoads said his team is using those past games as motivation to start the season on a high note.
"We need to play better, it’s a simple answer," Rhoads said Monday. "We need to play better and when adversity comes – which it will – we need to be able to handle it and respond to it. Whether it be in the first quarter, fourth quarter, or many times throughout, its one of the things we’ve really challenged our football team with, both on the field and off the field, in preparation for this season, not just the first game."
2. Impressions of Northern Iowa
The No. 10-ranked team in the FCS going into the season has great talent and is loaded across the board, Rhoads said (let’s settle down a little). The 2015 Panthers team is actually ranked higher than the 2013 team that beat the Cyclones. Regardless, Iowa State should not lose this game.
"Northern Iowa at the FCS level is a program that reloads, like traditional football powers that get more noteritity at the FBS level," Rhoads said. "Northern Iowa is all of that at their level."
3. The running back rotation
Rhoads wouldn’t go into detail on what his plans are for his group of running backs on Saturday, saying there were no specific plans for how many carries starter Tyler Brown, Mike Warren, or Joshua Thomas would receive. He wouldn’t distinguish one over the others, and said it really depends on who is playing well and what the situation calls for.
"The plan would be to see a lot of bodies out there carrying the ball and carrying it well," Rhoads said. "We'll play one back, two back, and we'll play a number of running backs on the field."
4. The No. 2 quarterback
It would be interesting to see which quarterback Rhoads turns to in the event they need to play Grant Rohach or Joel Lanning (for the love of god, Sam Richardson, stay healthy). Rhoads said he didn’t feel it was necessary to name a No. 2 quarterback, although the Cyclone’s official depth chart for Saturday’s game lists Rohach as backup.
"We have two backup quarterbacks and we feel confident in both Joel and Grant, and what they bring to our football program," Rhoads said.
5. The difference between this Cyclones team compared to those in years past
With Iowa State a combined 5-19 over the past two seasons (sorry for the reminder), the question remains how different is this team really from squads who’ve struggled recently. Rhoads said he likes the leadership and responsiveness of this year’s team, and everything’s been extremely positive as the team is in fact undefeated.
"The culture of this team is different, would I say it's 180 different? Absolutely not," Rhoads said. "But they have stuck to their guns and there is great resolve in the group."