MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There are days and nights on the campus at Iowa State when it doesn't make much sense to throw the football, a reality West Virginia got to know quite well on a cold, wet and windy night in Ames, Iowa, the day after Thanksgiving last year.
"Jack Trice Stadium," Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads said, "can be very blustery."
Rhoads, once a renowned defensive coordinator at Pitt and Auburn who was born 10 minutes away from the stadium and went to high school 20 minutes from the place, has never had an especially dynamic offense in his five seasons at Iowa State. His Cyclones ranked Nos. 103, 97, 90 and 85 in scoring offense his first four seasons, each team a little more capable than the one before it, but it has slipped this season.
Iowa State is back at No. 97, as good a reason as any Rhoads is 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the Big 12 as he prepares for Saturday's game against West Virginia at Mountaineer Field. The 4 p.m. game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.
Rhoads arranged a change before this season, though, and tried to get better at something he's been good at and something that makes sense on those rough nights at home.
Iowa State finished No. 35 in rushing yards per game in 2009 and No. 39 two seasons ago - and consider those teams were 13-13 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 and frequently played from behind and needed to pass to win.
Rhoads decided after finishing ninth in the Big 12 last season with 150.08 yards per game to switch to the Pistol. Rhoads needed to replace an offensive line coach and hired Chris Klenakis, who according to Rhoads knows the Pistol "maybe as well as anybody in the country."
Klenakis spent the past three seasons at Arkansas, but before that was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Nevada from 2004-09. Coach Chris Ault came out of retirement in 2004 following a Hall of Fame career and reinvented Wolfpack football with the Pistol in 2005.
"Getting a guy who knows it was a very important piece," Rhoads said. "We were already doing it, but there's a big difference between doing something and having the answers that go along with it."
The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) made a similar move in the offseason. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left for Oklahoma. Coach Dana Holgorsen had grown tired of coming up short in short-yardage situations and being unable to balance his play calls or control a game with the run.
He hired Ron Crook, the offensive tackles/tight ends coach at Stanford. Crook brought with him the Cardinal double teams and power game that started to take form and affect games late this season.