AMES — Iowa State’s offensive struggles in Saturday’s 24-13 Big 12 season-opening loss against Texas Tech extended beyond quarterback Steele Jantz.
But the play-caller usually stands front and center, in good times and bad.
So the senior transfer from California will be competing with backups Jared Barnett and Sam Richardson this week in practice, striving to keep the No. 1 job as he prepares for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. matchup with No. 15 Texas Christian at Fort Worth.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Jantz, who threw for 73 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against the Red Raiders. “I think it’s going to be high-intensity practices.”
Barnett, a sophomore from Garland, Texas, helped ISU (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) win three conference games last season after replacing an injured Jantz in week eight, but struggled in the Pinstripe Bowl and was benched.
Jantz won the starting job again out of camp, but has turned the ball over eight times in four games.
His passing totals for 2012: 85-of-127 (66.9 percent), 804 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions.
“The guy who is out there playing at that particular position has to be performing well and giving us a chance to win,” said Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads, who stressed one player is never solely responsible for any victory or defeat. “That’s what you’re looking for. Is that position giving us an opportunity to win? Is making a change going to give us a better opportunity to win? (Those are) the answers we’ve got to come up with as coaches both during the week and on the sideline come game day.”
The challenge for Jantz — or any other ISU quarterback — doesn’t get easier this week and beyond.
TCU (4-0, 1-0) ranks second nationally in pass efficiency defense, a lofty spot the Cyclones held before last week’s loss to Tech, which stands No. 1 in that category.
The Horned Frogs, led by Kenny Cain, Jason Verrett and Elisha Olabode, have grabbed nine picks this season.
Olabode, a junior safety, has returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
“It’s certainly one of the best defense in the country, if not the top defense in the country,” Rhoads said. “Our staff and our team are excited about facing these challenges.”
Rhoads noted that some people seemed to be “gathering sledgehammers” and swinging them toward Jantz, who is winless (0-5) in starts against Big 12 competition, but 6-0 while starting versus nonconference teams.
“He made a number of good plays, too (against Tech), and he was under duress a lot,” Rhoads said. “He made some poor decisions with run reads and made some poor decisions with balls that were thrown. And yes, they did contribute to a level of play that’s not acceptable to win games in the Big 12 conference.”
But so did a mixture of receivers not getting open and an atypical effort from the offensive line, which allowed four sacks — doubling its season total.
Rhoads offered a succinct reply when asked about his concerns up front on offense.
“I would say probably from tackle to tackle,” he said.
Center Tom Farniok vowed to put said concerns to rest.
“That’s not us,” Farniok said. “We are definitely a much, much better unit than that.”
As for Jantz, there’s no magic bullet.“It’s really not too complicated,” he said. “Just learn from your mistakes and move on.”