Grant Rohach gains confidence as a Big 12 quarterback after ISU football’s win at West Virginia


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant RohachCQ scrambles through defenders during the Homecoming game on Nov. 9 at Jack Trice Stadium. Rohach rushed for 26 yards in the 17-21 loss.

Alex Halsted

Grant Rohach rolled out right, set his feet and released the ball. The pass sailed 25 yards downfield into the end zone and into the hands of wide receiver Justin Coleman.

The touchdown completion and ensuing two-point conversion put Iowa State ahead of West Virginia 52-44 in triple overtime, and an eventual win by that same score gave the Cyclones confidence heading into the off-season after going 3-9.

Those two passes? That was confidence the redshirt freshman quarterback needed.

“I think that throw to Coleman for the touchdown and the two-point conversion to [E.J.] Bibbs — which wasn’t a very good throw, but Bibbs made a great play on it — those two throws gave me huge confidence,” Rohach said. “Huge confidence in myself and huge confidence in our offense to be effective in the Big 12 is something I gained from that.”

Rohach said Monday — after being named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week — those two throws are what stand out to him as moments he asserted himself as a Big 12 quarterback. With 313 yards passing in Saturday’s win, Rohach became the first freshman in school history to pass for 300 yards in consecutive games.

Iowa State scored on each of its last seven possessions led by Rohach, who went 25-of-39 with four passing touchdowns and a 54-yard rushing touchdown. The 24-point comeback was the largest in ISU history.

Rohach appeared in seven of Iowa State’s 12 games in 2013, starting the final four games after taking over for redshirt sophomore Sam Richardson against Texas Christian on Nov. 9.

“You can come in and you can try to learn the playbook and memorize it as much as you want,” Rohach said. “But being able to use the playbook against an opponent as more of a tool to the football game is something that I got a lot better at.”

Rohach will go into the off-season without an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach after Courtney Messingham was let go Sunday, Dec. 1. He said that makes breaking down film more difficult, but there will instead be a physical focus, such as running routes with his returning wide receivers.

“The lack of knowing if we’re going to keep the same playbook or change our playbook kind of factors into, do I keep breaking down the film that we’ve already played in or do I need to look elsewhere,” Rohach said. “That kind of complicates things.”

In his first season on the field for the Cyclones, Rohach went 110-of-191 passing for a 57.6 completion percentage with eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

His biggest off-season goal is to become more accurate in those throws with the hope to complete a larger percentage of passes when he returns to the field.

“I think becoming more of an accurate passer,” Rohach said of his key area of focus. “Some completions of balls receivers made tremendous catches on, and a quarterback shouldn’t have to put them in those positions. You expect every ball to be right on target and having a receiver be able to catch and run without slowing down.”

ISU coach Paul Rhoads said the quarterback position would again be open for competition when spring rolls around. That competition will include Rohach, Richardson, and freshmen Joel Lanning and Trevor Hodge.

Rohach will enter the spring taking snaps with the first-team offense. With his newfound confidence, there is hope for him that the quarterback position will find stability.

“All I can do is focus on how well I play and how efficiently I run the offense,” Rohach said. “If it’s good enough, then hopefully I’ll be getting the starts next year. I have full faith in coach Rhoads and whoever our future offensive coordinator will be to make the right decision who’s the best player and play him, whether it’s me or anybody else in the quarterback room.”