AMES - Grant Rohach is getting his chance to try to reverse Iowa State's free fall through the Big 12 Conference.
Rohach, a redshirt freshman, is listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the Cyclones' depth chart for Saturday's home game against TCU, ahead of season-long starter Sam Richardson.
Coach Paul Rhoads said that doesn't necessarily mean Rohach will take the team's first snap, even though he played the rest of the way after replacing Richardson in the second quarter of last Saturday's 41-7 loss at Kansas State.
"Quite honestly, depending on how this week flows, Sam could run out there as the starting quarterback," Rhoads said Monday. "Right now, I don't know who will be the starter."
If that kind of talk has unsettled Rohach, it didn't show in his demeanor. He calmly said he'll prepare as if he'll be the starter.
"I've done that every week, no matter if I'm the backup or third-string even," he said. "I feel like no matter what position, you always need to prepare as if you're going to start the game, so that's how I'm going to attack it."
Neither quarterback distinguished himself last week in the Cyclones' latest embarrassing loss.
Richardson, a sophomore, completed 6-of-12 passes for 38 yards and was intercepted once. Rohach went 11-for-24 for 88 yards with two interceptions. He also was sacked twice.
"I obviously did not have a great game," Rohach said. "But I feel like I'm more comfortable back there than I was in my first half against Baylor (three weeks ago). I think I have improved since then."
Senior running back Jeff Woody has seen this type of quarterback quandary before, whether it was Austen Arnaud vs. Jerome Tiller, Tiller vs. Steele Jantz, Jantz vs. Jared Barnett or Barnett vs. Richardson.
Richardson clearly was No. 1 going into this season, but he has been dogged by a succession of injuries, starting with a sprained ankle in the opener.
"It would be something nice to have just one guy take the bull by the horns and just run with it," Woody said. "But stuff happens. Sam sprains an ankle, hurts his thumb, hurts his shoulder. Stuff happens."
The Cyclones (1-7, 0-5 Big 12) are desperate for something positive to happen at quarterback - and just about every other position for that matter - with TCU (3-6, 1-5) up next.
They've been outscored 170-41 in the last three games, and the offense is struggling just to make a first down. The quarterbacks are missing open receivers, receivers are dropping balls, poor decisions are slowing the running game and the offensive line has been in disarray because of injuries.
Last Saturday was the first time the same five interior linemen started in consecutive games, and then one of them, tackle Daniel Burton, limped off with a sprained ankle.
"We need something to kind of jump start us downfield, to get us rolling," Woody said. "We need to make a play."
Rhoads said Richardson's injuries and the constant shuffling in the line have led to what might be viewed as a "sophomore jinx" for the quarterback, who played well after gaining the starting job late last season. It also hasn't helped that running back Aaron Wimberly has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
"I think all of that leads to a sophomore jinx type of picture," Rhoads said. "Sam as a starting quarterback in high school lost one regular season game. You don't do that without being good at your craft and being confident in what you're doing.
"But we also realize that the supporting cast is necessary for that to take place, and when a lot of that supporting cast is on the sidelines in sweats, it's hard to put pieces together and get in a rhythm."