The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

August 22, 2012

Iowa State’s Rhoads has been a giant killer

This story is part of a continuing series previewing WVU’s 2012 football opponents.

Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads has a habit of ruining national championship runs.

Rhoads was Pitt's defensive coordinator in 2007 when his Panthers, a below .500 football team, kept West Virginia out of the BCS title game with a 13-9 regular season-ending defeat.

Last year, his Cyclones, which also finished with a losing record, were the only team to beat Oklahoma State, keeping the Cowboys from making a trip to play in college football's biggest game.

Now 18-20 in three years with the Cyclones, Rhoads is ready to try to take his team to make his team a competitor, instead of just a road block.

The Cyclones have some weapons back on offense to try to do just that. It starts with the rushing attack led by junior James White, who ran for 819 yards last season. He's paired with Jeff Woody, another junior, who also brings some speed and makes ISU's backfield difficult to stop.

Like last year, offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham is going to have to call up a lot of runs if his passing game doesn't greatly improve. The Cyclones ranked last in the conference and 111th in the nation in passing efficiency a year ago, and with only one bullet in the offensive gun, ISU struggled to put points on the board.

Messingham is hopeful that with a year of experience under his belt and a solid target in Josh Lenz, quarterback Steele Jantz will far surpass the 1,519 yards he threw for a year ago and give the offense more balance.

On the other side of the ball, the Cyclones have been very solid against the pass, ranking third in the Big 12, allowing 234 passing yards per game. That number would be a little high in many conferences, but not in the Big 12, where most of the game is played in the air.

Linebacker Jake Knott is the player to watch on defense. He ended last season with 74 tackles and a pair of interceptions.

ISU proved it can play with anybody with wins over OSU and Texas Tech last season, but it also had losing streaks of four and three games. What the Cyclones are looking for now is consistency.

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