CCM: A few weeks ago Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard basically took an, "Us vs. the Big 12" stance following the Oklahoma State game. Give us the back story there and then your opinion on the situation as a guy who covers the team.
BLG: For the last several years there have been a lot of controversial calls that went against Iowa State in football and men's basketball. Most folks remember the controversial end to the Texas football game last year with the non-fumble fumble that led to Texas winning. There were a few others too.
There have been sour feelings simmering for a while over controversial calls not going Iowa State's way. Part of the athletic department and fan base believe officials are out to get Iowa State, especially in games against bigger name programs. A controversial touchdown happened in an Oklahoma State game that became a blowout. It resulted in Pollard's rant, where he all but came out and said the league is making calls against ISU because it voted against adding an eighth football official about 18 months ago. Pollard implied Big 12 games are fixed. Those are lofty accusations. You need evidence to say that and ISU hasn't provided it.
I get the frustration from the fans. Every fan base can rattle off a series of games where the calls went against them. The thing is everyone can do it. Refs aren't perfect.
Overall, I think it was people reacting poorly to a call that didn't go their way. I really think Pollard could have used the Oklahoma State game as a way to bring up a conversation about officiating and if everything is being done to ensure the correct call is always made. I think that's a conversation most would be interested in having.
CCM: As for the Cyclones themselves, how crazy is it to see a Paul Rhoads coached team struggle this much on defense?
BLG: Typically, ISU has won with a stout defense and a bunch of big scoring plays. The defense has struggled for ISU the last two seasons. The Cyclones are rebuilding on defense with a lot of young players and an undersized defensive line.
There is a lot to like individually with the defense. Senior linebacker Jevohn Miller is a tackling machine. Senior defensive end Cory Morrissey is a league leader in sacks. Sophomore cornerbackerigel Tribune could be a future shutdown corner and both young safeties, T.J. Mutcherson and Kamari Cottton-Moya show promise.
The individual improvements have yet to translate into defensive success.
CCM: Is it one aspect of the defense that struggles more than the other (run/pass) or has it been a struggle all around?
BLG: More often than not it's the rush defense. ISU is ninth in the league in rush defense, allowing 209 yards per game. The pass defense has been more consistent, but did allow Texas to connect on several deep passes in the last game, a 48-45 loss.
CCM: Is it fair to say that the losses have overshadowed ISU's improvement on offense?
BLG: Nationally, probably, but those in the area (or those who were realistic) knew this was a rebuilding year in Ames. The improvement for players like I mentioned above on defense is what fans should have been looking for. Yes, losing to an FCS program for a second straight season, even if it was North Dakota State, isn't good, but most didn't expect ISU to go bowling this season.
CCM: Dual-threat quarterbacks have been an absolute headache for Oklahoma's defense over the last month. Talk about Sam Richardson's game and the threat he poses to the Sooner defense.
BLG: Richardson is playing his best football as a Cyclone. He's set the program record for completions in consecutive games and has thrown for 690 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions during that span.
He looks a lot towards wide receivers Allen Lazard and D'Vario Montgomery and tight end E.J. Bibbs. All three are playmakers that can give the Sooners fits in the passing game.
CCM: Where have you seen the biggest improvements in the offense under new coordinator Mark Mangino?
BLG: It's been in the play of Richardson. He's making better decisions than ever before. He is more accurate than ever before. He is making more plays than ever before.
Richardson is playing like a true quarterback. Before, he would look to scramble before going through his progressions. Now, he only scrambles as a last resort. It's made him a better quarterback and the offense is more productive as a result.
You can catch Bobby La Gesse's coverage of Iowa State as we head into game day by visiting the Ames Tribune. You can also follow him on Twitter @BobbyLaGesse.