Much thanks to the good folks at Wide Right & Natty Lite for answering some questions about tomorrow's game.
Seth C: Let's just go ahead and get this out of the way. You guys know that Kingsbury is more dreamy than Hoiberg, right? I mean, you all are just sticking up for you coach and stuff, but I mean, c'mon . . .
WRNL: Let's back the train up here a little bit on this Kingsbury and Hoiberg "rivalry". First, your coach may have his GQ looks, but he's never made the women of Lubbock drop their panties. Second, Hoiberg has been doing this longer son. Unless he leaves ISU or is horribly disfigured in a freak accident there's no knocking the King of Dreamy off his throne. Third, our Farmalliance brothers and 100% unbiased bloggers at Bring on the Cats agreed with our Dreamiest assessment. Oh, and our guy actually had success in the pros and we all know women love them some top flight athletes.
Seth C: You sorta have to buy into this, but do you buy into the idea that there might be an emotional let-down after the Texas game where so much emotion was spent beating the Longhorns and the refs? Or do you think that Rhoads will be able to get his team to focus on the task at hand and you don't expect any emotional let down?
WRNL: Despite the youth on this team I have been surprised by their resiliency. Rhoads coached teams have been prone to the emotional letdown and look no further to the Nebraska games in 2009 and 2010 as an example. After the stirring upset in Lincoln in 2009 Rhoads took a drained team to College Station and got butt trounced right out of town to the tune of 35-10 (PS - Fuck those Aggies). In 2010 Rhoads took Nebraska to overtime in the final meeting only to loose on a botched two point conversion. The next week a hapless Colorado team that had just fired Dan Hawkins ended up dominating in a 34-14 win and ended quarterback Austen Arnaud's career.
So the letdown possibility is always there, but Rhoads has been emphatic about how this team rallied together in the locker room immediately after the Texas game and said it was time to move on. Judging by his comments on Monday I think they have and their focus is 100% devoted to Texas Tech.
Seth C: The offense and the quarterback, Sam Richardson, have been a bit up and down, looking much better against the Longhorns. Anything in particular that's changed for Iowa St. and Richardson or just better execution?
WRNL: Better execution has definitely been key to the offense coming together and a lot of that is driving by Aaron Wimberly's insertion as the starter at running back. Wimberly has ran over 100 yards in each of his first two starts and brings a "make you miss" element in the open field to combine with his burst immediately after touching the ball. In addition, Richardson finally looked healthy after spraining his ankle in the first game against Northern Iowa and brought his legs out to help move the chains. He dinged the ankle up again late in the 4th quarter, and was noticeably hobbled by it, but with Wimberly and the offensive line coming together the team is relying less and less on Richardson's legs to move the ball.
Seth C: I think I've got a few guys pegged as being the leaders on the defense, but talk about some of the worker-bees on the defense that aren't getting the headlines.
WRNL: Jeremiah George got all the headlines in the off season but has had an up and down year trying to cover the mistakes of a young defense. It's really Luke Knott, yes, the young brother of Jake Knott, that is the glue that binds this defense. His coverage is already above average for a redshirt freshman and despite his size he's not afraid to mix it up in the run game. It's been his play that has helped solidify this young defense.
In addition the conversion of 6'7" defense end David Irving to defensive tackle has really forced teams to focus on controlling the middle of the field and allowing unheralded ends like Cory Morrissey and Willie Scott to have more room to roam. Neither one will make headlines or SportsCenter but they are solid.
Seth C: Talk a bit about the offensive playmakers and what they add to the offense.
WRNL: I already mentioned Wimberly above but two guys in the passing game that have begun to stand our are Quenton Bundrage and tight end E.J. Bibbs. You covered Bundrage in your preview, and while he's been inconsistent from game to game, when he gets involved he can be damn near frightening. He's not particularly big (6'1") but his arms provide long enough levers to beat press coverage and he's a very good route runner for only being a sophomore.
Bibbs is a junior college transfer that has started to come on the last few games with fellow tight end Ernst Brun sideline. Bibbs brings a rare combination of size (6'3", 250 pounds) and speed that presents a match up problem for smaller linebackers and safeties. He caught the first touchdown pass of his career on a corner route against Tulsa where he just beat the safety to the corner and then came back to out jump a different safety on a play the next drive. His blocking has been instrumental in helping the running game get some traction these past few games.
Seth C: I try to ask at least one question so that I have an idea as to where the general fan is in terms of how they view the program. Rhoads has always been solid and he seems like a guy that's going to grind it out each year. What is the general thought about the state of the program and whether or not folks are pretty happy or sold on Rhoads or if fans are starting to get nervous about where things are headed?
WRNL: If you had asked us this question a month ago we would have really been concerned with Rhoads' decision making when it came to his coaching staff and how he would get these players ready to play. It's hard to lose to two in-state rivals (worse when one is an FCS school) and have faith in your coach when it happens in year 5 of his program. Yet the efforts against Tulsa and Texas has confirmed a few things for us. One, this team is young and will not only improve from game to game, but will make mistakes along the way. Two, defensive coordinator Wally Burnham is a magician with his defenses. To be playing this young of a defense in the front seven and to still have them playing disciplined is a minor miracle. If this growth continues it will be fun to watch this defense in November.
All that said, a lot of us are expecting 2014 to be the year Rhoads breaks this team into the national discussion and if it doesn't happen then we will begin to wonder if the program has hit its plateau.