Rohach shines in Cyclone spring game

AMES – Grant Rohach made a strong case for himself in Iowa State’s spring game Saturday in the Cyclones’ seemingly annual competition for the starting quarterback job.

Rohach outshone Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning on a warm, windy day, completing 22 of 38 passes for 171 yards and two interceptions. He led three scoring drives – two touchdowns and a field goal – and scored one of the TDs himself from 8 yards out on a nifty read option.

“I thought the offense played well at the beginning,” Rohach said. “Toward the end, I tried to force a few throws and tried to make too many plays.”

With two more spring practices remaining, coach Paul Rhoads said no decision has been made on a starter. While agreeing that Rohach was the top performer, Rhoads added, “That does not put him on top. We will come out of spring with two leading candidates. Whether we announce that in April or wait until August … a lot can happen in May, June and July.”

This has been a troublesome spring for the Cyclones, who are hoping to rebound from a 3-9 season in 2013. Injuries kept several players out of Saturday’s game and two key defensive linemen, Rodney Coe and David Irving, have been kicked off the team.

Here are five things to know as the Cyclones head into their final two spring practices:

DEFENSIVE LINE WOES

Rhoads announced Saturday he has dismissed the 6-foot-7, 281-pound Irving, who faces three charges in connection with a large crowd disturbance in Ames on Tuesday night. A sexual assault charge lodged against Irving last year was dropped.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be a part of this football program and represent Iowa State football, Iowa State athletics and Iowa State University,” Rhoads said. “David Irving has exhausted that privilege to represent this football program by not meeting the expectations we laid out for him.”

Coe was kicked off the team last month for violating team rules and veteran defensive lineman Brandon Jensen quit. That leaves end Cory Morrissey as the only returning starter and will force the Cyclones to rely on freshmen, sophomores and junior college transfers.

“It’s really time for the younger guys to step up and make a name for themselves and help out the defense,” said end Mitchell Meyers, who’ll be a sophomore next season.

PLEASANT SURPRISE

Even with all the new faces, the defense held its own against veteran offensive players.

The No. 1 defense forced seven three-and-outs to start the game and defensive players recorded 12 sacks, though a player had to only touch the quarterback to stop the play.

Still, that meant they were getting pressure.

“The best they’ve looked this spring,” Rhoads said. “I thought they tackled well. And part of tackling well is gang tackling and I thought they had a lot of people around the football.”

WHERE’S QUENTON

Eleven different receivers caught at least one ball, but Quenton Bundrage wasn’t among them.

Bundrage, who tied a school record with nine touchdown catches last fall, ran deep routes Saturday and was badly overthrown most of the time. The lone ball he had a chance to catch he dropped.

“We’re looking for consistency from Quenton,” Rhoads said. “There’s no question he has made big plays. We need him to make plays consistently.”

RICHARDSON STRUGGLES

Richardson, who began last season as the starter before suffering a series of injuries, seemed uncomfortable most of the afternoon, though he did play with the second- and third-stringers.

He completed eight of 13 passes for 55 yards, including a 12-yarder to Damein Lawry for a touchdown late in the game, but often was forced out of the pocket. Rhoads cautioned against reading too much into that performance, noting it was Richardson’s turn in the rotation to work with those units.

“He could get the bulk of reps Monday or Wednesday with the ones or twos,” Rhoads said.

ANOTHER INJURY

Defensive back T.J. Mutcherson was the latest to go down with an injury. He injured an MCL and will be out four weeks, Rhoads said.

Starters who missed the game because of injuries included offensive lineman Brock Dagel, wide receiver Tad Ecby and linebacker Luke Knott.

LOCAL NOTES

West Marshall graduate Drake Ferch, a redshirt senior defensive back, was among the team leaders with eight tackles on Saturday, including six solo stops. Ferch also recorded one pass break-up.

Brandon Horbach, a redshirt junior from South Tama County, logged one pass attempt and completed it for 5 yards.