By Rob Gray
AMES — As Iowa State quarterback Grant Rohach walked between classes Monday, his phone buzzed briefly.
he had no idea what it signified — and certainly didn't expect it to bring the news that he’d earned Big 12 offensive player of the week honors.
“Very surprised and shocked but very grateful I was able to achieve that award with the support of the whole offense,” said Rohach, who completed 25 of 39 passes for a career-high 331 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s equally shocking 52-44 comeback win at West Virginia in triple overtime. “(ISU sports information director) Mike (Green) kind of tagged me and that’s how I found out.”
Rohach already had beed tabbed as the Cyclone quarterback to start spring football with the No. 1 offense even though an open competition will ensue between him, Sam Richardson, Joel Lanning and Trevor Hodge.
Saturday’s performance, Rohach said, caused a further spike in confidence.
“(It’s) very high and not only in my play, but also, I’d say, in the offense as a whole,” said Rohach, who in wins over Kansas and the Mountaineers turned a shaky redshirt freshman season into a promising one. “It really showed up in the later part of that West Virginia game, so it’s a great feeling in having confidence in every guy around you.”
Rohach’s first two starts — in losses to TCU and Oklahoma — produced zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
But signs of growth came against the Sooners, when he connected on 21 on 34 attempts for a then-career high 179 yards (and the two picks).
In the wins over the Jayhawks and Mountaineers that followed, Rohach truly began to shine.
Those eight quarters produced a 68 percent completion percentage, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
He also provided his first glimpse of game-breaking running ability, chugging 54 yards for a touchdown against West Virginia.
“I was a little gassed coming off there to the sideline,” said Rohach, who’s previous best run of 29 yards came in the TCU loss. “I was kind of thinking, ‘Gosh, if I’m that out of shape I can’t run 50 yards without being dead, (strength coach) Yancy (McKnight) is going to kill me this offseason.’”
That winter strength work begins after break and Rohach said he’s looking forward to it.
The 6-1, 210-pound Californian with Iowa family roots also had nothing but kind words for ousted offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, who was let go on Sunday along with running backs Kenith Pope.“Not a harder working guy, in my opinion,” Rohach said. “He was always there and helpful with questions I may have had throughout the season. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to where this program will go from here on out.”