Following a 45-27 loss at Baylor that dropped the 2015 Cyclones to 2-5 (1-3), a mid-season change at quarterback was expected to be announced after sophomore Joel Lanning put up solid numbers against the Bears and led the offense to three scoring drives. What wasn’t expected was what head coach Paul Rhoads opened with in his weekly press conference on Monday morning:
“I had to make a change at offensive coordinator this morning. Mark and I couldn’t get on the same page on a few important items. We tried to talk that through again this morning, in an effort to get us moving in a different direction. In the end, Mark was not interested in that. I wish that wasn’t the case.”
I would argue that few, if any, outside of the program knew about the differences that coach Rhoads and Mangino faced. One has to presume that Mangino’s previous experience as a head coach interfered with the way that Rhoads ran the ship. We can only speculate that a power struggle between the two coaches occurred about the offensive philosophy and a change needed to be made. Rhoads made that decision. Passing game coordinator Todd Sturdy takes over the offensive coordinator position.
Over the past few weeks, it was evident to Cyclone fans is that freshman phenom Mike Warren and the rushing attack had been gaining momentum. At times throughout the past few games, however, he (and the run game) would be shrugged off in favor of a mediocre passing attack. Make no mistake, Iowa State has a very formidable wide receiving corps, but the run game has been the strength of the offense—by far—in 2015.
Likely among the disagreements between Rhoads and Mangino was the play of senior quarterback Sam B. Richardson. Richardson has already thrown 8 interceptions through 7 games, and has been inconsistent all season. During Iowa State’s loss against TCU on Oct. 17, Richardson had been struggling slightly and backup quarterback Joel Lanning was entered into the game to provide a spark—and he did just that, throwing a 74-yard touchdown pass to wideout Allen Lazard. Curiously, Lanning did not play the rest of the game. Despite the obvious spark Lanning provided the Cyclone offense, Mangino was seemingly in favor of sticking with Richardson and reluctant to play Lanning. Add his successful performance against Baylor, and the quarterback carousel began.
Now, a new starting quarterback during the season is far from new to Cyclone fans. In fact, they have been groaning for Lanning for a couple weeks now. His play in recent weeks has been promising, and he will be tested against Texas in his first start Saturday. Comparable to Collin Klein at Kansas State the last couple of years, Lanning has a big frame at 6’ 2” 232 lbs—something that Richardson does not possess. He will look to help the Cyclones beat Texas for the first time since 2010, and just the second time ever. If he struggles, don’t be surprised if Richardson is inserted into the game. Historically, Richardson has put up some of his biggest numbers against Texas (262 yards and 2 TDs in 2013, 345 yards and 3 TDs in 2014).
Paul Rhoads is on the hot seat. Paul Rhoads has to win this season in order to keep his job. This was the chatter that surrounded the Cyclone football season prior to the home opener back in September. The issue with that statement and idea is this: Who are you going to bring to Iowa State that is going to care more about the football program? What coach is going to come to Ames and win immediately? If they did win immediately, what coach would stay in Ames and refuse a bigger paycheck and a bigger program?
CycloneNation wanted change and this week they got just that. Mangino is out and Lanning is in. Paul Rhoads still has some work to do to cool his seat off, but I believe he is still the right man for the job. He has shown he can be successful at Iowa State in the past when all the right pieces are in place. Regardless, this much is clear, if there was a disagreement between Mangino and Rhoads, it’s long gone now.
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