AMES — Poise.
Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz strode onto the field for Saturday’s 38-23 win over Tulsa well-prepared and it showed.
“The offseason and before the game and during the game I tried to remember that it’s mental,” said Jantz, who set single-game career highs in completions (32) and passing yards (281). “That’s where it all starts so certainly I try to be smarter about it and more composed and I felt like I did a good job with that but still need to get better.”
Jantz flashed his big-play capacity early, with a slightly off-balance, on-the-numbers 43-yard touchdown heave to receiver Josh Lenz.
He demonstrated patience later, ruthlessly dinking and dunking on the Golden Hurricane — part of the Cyclone game plan under new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
“I think I saw a lot of things better with Steele Jantz,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “And a lot of people at Jack Trice Stadium saw the same thing. I saw a very composed quarterback. I saw a quarterback making good decisions. I saw a guy that had the look in his eye on the sideline. Ran the ball well and threw the ball downfield, I think, better than he has during camp, the deeper stuff. And he probably through the shorter stuff not as good as he did in camp.”
In other words, a few hiccups — no catastrophes.
Just what the offense ordered.
“Coming into the start of camp you could just feel it’s a different Steele Jantz,” said wide receiver Chris Young, who had a career day in his second-ever start, grabbing seven passes for 73 yards. “His thinking, the way he goes about practice is way different. He doesn’t run much. He’s in the pocket more, reading defenses. What he did (Saturday) didn’t surprise me much.”
Jantz — who tossed 10 touchdowns to 11 interceptions last season — used his arm on an as-needed basis.
In the first half, the Golden Hurricane bottled up every ISU runner except Shontrelle Johnson.
So the short passing game clicked — and Jantz went 22-of-30 for two touchdowns, an interception and 240 yards in the first half alone.
In the second, big holes opened up for Johnson and James White, easing the burden on Jantz, who seamlessly settled into maintain mode.
“Their offense was machine-like,” Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. “They had the one look over the top early in the game, but other than that, they just kept staying on the field.”
The Cyclone offense endured three three-and-outs all game — with two coming while Tulsa took a 16-7 lead.
ISU then managed at least one first down in 9 of 10 crucial drives until the final two minutes, with the game already decided.
“(Jantz) has not started a bunch of games at this level,” Rhoads said. “He’s still learning, so that means there’s a lot of upside. I look forward to seeing that happen.”
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