ISU QB Richardson adjusts to being starter

Iowa State’s decision to play freshman quarterback Sam
Richardson in the final two games of the regular season resulted in
a win, a loss and a lot of hope for the future.

Now Richardson has the chance to grow some more.

Iowa State (6-6) earned a berth in the Liberty Bowl against
Tulsa (10-3), giving Richardson more time to increase his
familiarity with the rest of the starting offense.

The Cyclones say the experience from playing in a pair of games
and working as the starter in practice is already paying off.

”The biggest thing, to be honest with you, is pocket
presence,” offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said.
”Because how he’s handled the offense, how he’s interacted with
the players has always been very mature, very much `I know what I’m
doing.’ But the thing that’s changed is, now that he’s had real
live reps, is his ability to understand `I need to go run’ or `I
need to throw it away and not take a sack.”’

Richardson, a redshirt freshman who spent much of the year as
the third stringer, led the Cyclones to touchdowns on four straight
possessions in his first full quarter of playing time in a 51-23
win over Kansas on Nov. 17. That effort earned him his first and
only start the following week against West Virginia.

Richardson completed just 13 of 31 passes in extremely blustery
conditions, but he also racked up three TDs and no picks in a 31-24
loss. He’s since been able to work with the rest of the starting
offense more than he ever had before, and he said that experience
has been ”tremendously” positive.

”I’ve definitely molded my game to fit with the (starters) now
and it’s helped quite a bit,” Richardson said.

The one thing the Cyclones would like to see more of is
assertiveness.

The soft-spoken Richardson is still growing into his role as a
leader. But coach Paul Rhoads said Sunday that he’s seen Richardson
make progress in that area during bowl preparation, and Richardson
is doing his best to adopt a more assertive approach.

”It’s just being confident in your play,” he said. ”Sometimes
back earlier in the year I might have gotten frustrated with
myself. Now it’s carrying yourself through those mistakes and
carrying the offense as well.”

Iowa State has always thought highly of Richardson even when it
wasn’t ready to hand him the starting job. But the Cyclones are
even more confident in him after watching him play in games,
because he’s shown a knack for making plays when it matters.

”To be honest, I don’t see a big bit of difference. I don’t
mean that in a negative way,” Rhoads said. ”I just mean that it’s
not like with one start and a lot of playing time in the other game
and these extra reps he’s bloomed into the next Dan Marino. He’s
doing a nice job, but he also did a nice job before. He just didn’t
do some of the little things that we needed him to do to hand it
over to him.”

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