AMES, IOWA (AP) - Iowa State’s quarterback competition could be heating up after redshirt freshman Jared Barnett replaced struggling starter Steele Jantz in the Cyclones’ last game.
Coach Paul Rhoads said he hasn’t lost confidence in Jantz, who has thrown eight interceptions and lost four fumbles. But he indicated Barnett would get a closer look this week as the Cyclones (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) prepare for Saturday’s home game with No. 17 Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1).
“I think we’re going to practice through and see by the end of the week who we think has the best chance to lead our football team to victory versus Texas A&M,” Rhoads said Monday.
A month ago, the prospect of anyone challenging Jantz for the starting job seemed far fetched.
The transfer from City College of San Francisco made several big plays in leading the Cyclones to come-from-behind victories in their first three games, often on plays he kept alive by avoiding the pass rush.
But the Cyclones have lost their last three games, all to Big 12 opponents, and the offense was particularly ineffective in last Saturday’s 52-17 thumping at Missouri. Barnett replaced Jantz on Iowa State’s first possession of the fourth quarter, and though he threw an interception on his very first play, he later led the Cyclones to their only offensive touchdown.
Barnett said it took him a few snaps to get used to the speed of the game.
“It was much faster than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “But I feel like I was able to pick up my play to that speed and play along with the speed of the game. And then it kind of slowed down to my speed after I was in there a couple of times.
“After getting that experience, I think it will be easier for me to take control of the game.”
He might have to take control if the offense falters again. Barnett said he’ll do the same things he always does to get ready for a game, but he also knows the reward this week might be greater.
“I do feel like my chances (of playing) are higher,” he said. “Right now, my role is still the backup quarterback. Every week I always build myself up like I’m going to start, like I’m going to play. So I have to build myself up like that this week.”
Barnett completed 3 of 8 passes for 25 yards against Missouri and added 21 yards rushing in four carries.
“He does a really nice job of throwing the ball on time, meaning a receiver maybe hasn’t come out of his break yet and by the time he does turn, the ball’s already arriving,” Rhoads said. “I think that’s maybe the best thing he does right now as a very young quarterback. But all in all, I think he played pretty good.”
Under Jantz, who was 17 of 32 for 161 yards, the offense produced only six first downs and 117 yards in the first half. He didn’t throw an interception but lost a fumble that gave Missouri a short field for its second touchdown. The Tigers led 45-10 when Jantz came out.
Rhoads said it was one of the two worst games the Cyclones have played in his three years, the other being a 68-27 loss to Utah last season. He also said the poor performance can’t be blamed entirely on quarterback play.
“Absolutely there were other elements,” he said. “But the quarterback is still the pivotal player on the field. He touches the ball every snap. He’s making decision with the ball in his hand. Did we miss blocks to create second and 14? You bet we did. Did we run incorrect routes on third down to not allow the quarterback to throw a ball where he should? Sure we did.
“But it’s just the nature of that position that you’re going to get the most credit or the most critique when things aren’t going as proficiently as they need to.”
Rhoads reminded reporters that Jantz still has a sore left foot from an injury in the Connecticut game. Jantz said the injury hampers his maneuverability, but he has to deal with it.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I can’t use it as an excuse. I just have to figure out a way to execute with maybe not being as fast as I’d like to be.”