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AMES — Any bells and whistles that undoubtedly lurk in Iowa State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s playbook stayed safely sequestered from Saturday’s annual spring game at Jack Trice Stadium.
The plan: simplicity — in play calling and, most importantly, execution.
The results: Solid, if somewhat flawed when it came to a wind-bothered passing game.
“To win in (the Big 12), you’ve got to be able to threw and catch the football and that’s an area we still need great improvement in as we move forward,” said Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads, who oversaw what amounted to the 13th of 15 spring practices witnessed by an estimated 6,500 fans.
It’s still a three-man competition — Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning — for the starting quarterback job, Rhoads said, but the battle could be trimmed to two as early as Wednesday.
Who stood out most Saturday?
“I would say Grant was probably the top performer of the day,” said Rhoads, whose defense delivered 12 touch sacks. “That doesn’t put him (on top), necessarily.”
Rohach, who threw for more than 300 yards in each of last season’s conference wins over Kansas and West Virginia, completed 22 of 38 passes for a game-high 171 yards.
The 6-1, 224-pound sophomore also led the offense to three first half-scoring drives but tossed the game’s only two interceptions to Kamari Syrie and former Iowa City West star Ezra Reiners.
“I thought the offense played well at the beginning,” Rohach said. “Towards the end I tried to force a few throws, tried to make too many plays and should have just thrown to a check down or two. But overall I thought I did all right. … When we hit the lull it was a little disappointing.”
Richardson — who started early last season before injuries and inconsistent play forced him to the sideline — completed 8 of 13 passes for 55 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to converted safety Damein Lawry.
Lanning went 7 of 14 through the air for 44 yards, including a a few well-placed sideline passes.
“I felt better,” said Lanning, who was less charitable in his self-assessment of an earlier scrimmage. “It was my first spring game ever, so it was a good experience.”
Lanning said delivering the ball out in front of receivers has been one of the main focal points of spring practice.
“Getting it out to them quick on those little screens that we do so we can get the receivers moving,” he added.
About those little screens: There were lots of them and some turned into big gains.
Sophomore P.J. Harris starred in one of them.
“(He) had the longest run of the day — 80 yards to gain 18, or whatever it was,” Rhoads said.
Jarvis West led Cyclone receivers with eight catches for 68 yards and tight end threat E.J. Bibbs grabbed eight for 50 yards.
He was the top target of the day, for good reason.
“I would like to be,” Bibbs, who totaled 39 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns last season, said of top target status, “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Nor is there anything wrong — or unexpected — with keeping flashy plays under wraps in the middle of April.
“I think we actually showed more than I anticipated, but there’s obviously things we’re not going to show in the spring game,” Rohach said.
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