By Rob Gray
AMES — When Courtney Messingham assumed command of Iowa State’s offense in January 2012, he shared some advice with his daughter.
“I told (her) when I got this job that this is probably the last time you’ll want to read the blogs,” Messingham said Monday.
That admonition stands.
Entering Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. Big 12 game at Kansas State, the Cyclones’ offense ranks 101st nationally in average yards per game (351), 96th in rushing (135) and 78th in passing (216).
Those types of numbers, coupled with ISU’s records of 1-6, 0-4, make Messingham the primary target of frustrated fans and keyboard-bound critics across the social media landscape — not that he’s paying any attention.
“I’m kind of an old-school guy,” the former Northern Iowa quarterback said. “I read the newspaper at times, but I’m not an e-mail, blog, Facebook person except from a recruiting standpoint.”
No, Messingham’s too busy to acknowledge, let alone counter, the caustic barbs directed his way.
The hand he’s been dealt this season includes more injuries, especially on the offensive line, than he’s ever faced in his coaching career.
There have been missed reads on the run and through the air.
Throws out of bounds.
Dropped passes and penalties at particularly damaging times.
It’s a formula for low rankings, inconsistency and a parade of three and outs.
How to fix it?
Where to start?
“Protection, play calls, accuracy, catching the ball,” said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, whose team has lost seven of its past eight Big 12 games. “All of them play into it. And if you look at times when we weren’t successful, you could point to a number of things — a drop, an inaccurate pass, a play call that you;d like to have back, not enough time in the pocket to follow through with a full play. So things gotta line up with all those things for you to have success. The more things you do right, the more success you’re going to have. Any time you stumble, any time you trip along the way, your chances of success decrease.”
It’s hard to find steady footing when your quarterback’s hurting in several different ways from week to week, too.
ISU starter Sam Richardson, Rhoads said, is “fine” after a scary hit to the head and neck that sidelined him in the second quarter of last week’s 58-27 loss to No. 18 Oklahoma State.
But whether Richardson will take the snaps against the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3), or backup Grant Rohach will be pressed into duty for the third straight game is uncertain.
“Plan will be to go through the week and make sure (Richardson’s) 100 percent off this recent injury and can operate the offense,” Rhoads said. “We’ll figure it out at that point.”
Figuring out what ails the offense as a whole, aside from the mounting injuries, is much tougher to pinpoint.
Rohach, who went 12 of 23 for 97 yards and a touchdown in Richardson’s stead, starts with himself.
“There’s no excuse for not making plays,” he said after Saturday’s loss. “Not throwing strikes when guys are open.”
MEDICAL ALERT: Rhoads said starting linebacker Luke Knott (hip/groin) and running back Aaron Wimberly (hamstring) are “day-to-day” and might play this week. Starting defensive end Willie Scott, who was benched for a team rule issue last week, will be available, Rhoads added. Starting wide receiver/returner Jarvis West remains out with an MCL injury.
TV TIME: ISU’s next home game — Nov. 9 against TCU — will kick off at 11 a.m. and be broadcast on Fox Sports Net (FSN).
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