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No QB controversy: Richardson's the starter

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AMES Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads slammed the door shut Tuesday on what seemed to be a crack of uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Sam Richardson's still the man despite redshirt freshman Grant Rohach being used at times in last Saturday's 71-7 rout at Baylor.

"Sam's going to start," Rhoads said of Richardson entering Saturday's 11 a.m. Big 12 game against No. 19 Oklahoma State (FSN) at Jack Trice Stadium. "We plan on him playing at a higher level with his physical health. He's got to make smarter decisions and quicker judgments."

The good news for ISU (1-5, 0-3) as it prepares for the Cowboys (5-1, 2-1): Richardson's nagging right ankle sprain, Rhoads said, did not seem to worsen for the first time since he incurred the injury in the season-opening loss to Northern Iowa.

The sophomore completed 7 of 14 passes for 68 yards and one interception.

Rohach connected on eight of the first 13 passes in his career, including a last-minute touchdown and an interception.

Rhoads said Rohach saw his first snaps solely because the offense had stagnated.

"Productivity," Rhoads said. "We were looking for the football team to move down the field, we were looking for first downs and we weren't getting them. So we put Grant in the ball game and tried to jump start that."

Consider quarterback competition talk quashed, then for now, anyway.

"Sam's knowledge is far ahead, quite simply, (of) where Grant's knowledge is," Rhoads added. "That's just time and experience and that's an important factor and will remain an advantage for Sam as the year goes along. ... He'll be healthier as we go into this game."

Rhoads wishes he could say the same about his deeply depleted offensive line.

Fifth-year senior Kyle Lichtenberg, Rhoads said, is the latest front man to be "doubtful" entering a game week.

"That means we'll be playing with our seventh different starting lineup at the offensive line," Rhoads said. "I don't think you people appreciate how big of a challenge that is for a young football team."

That beat-up and youthful unit will face a bold defense that boasts 16 takeaways, helping build the top turnover margin in the Big 12 at plus-7.

"They swarm to the ball, they tackle well, they bring a nice mix of pressure and play zone," Rhoads said. "They've got great players at every level, and what I mean by that (is) there are great players on the D-line, there are great players at the linebacker level and there are great players at the secondary. That doesn't mean all three or all four are at (each) level, but when you have great players at every level you can play pretty sound defense and that's exactly what they're doing."

It's securely Richardson's job to try to counter that greatness, no matter how much time he has to plant, throw and make option reads.

"We need to start getting at speed level on a step ahead as a football team and Sam's knowledge gives him the opportunity to do that," Rhoads said. "He's got to get past some indecisiveness and play at that speed that I'm talking about, that mentally he can match up with."

WATSON EXPECTED BACK: Rhoads said his most experienced cornerback, Jansen Watson, is expected back to full-time duty after experiencing a severe ankle sprain in the Texas loss. "I plan on him running with our ones (Tuesday) and being the starter on Saturday," Rhoads said.

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