AMES — Backup, starter, backup, starter.
Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett expects that not-so merry-go-round to stop.
“I have my opportunity back and I have to take full advantage of it,” said Barnett, who rose again from clipboard holder to play caller and threw for a single-game career high-tying three touchdowns in Saturday’s 37-23 upset at then-No. 15 Texas Christian. “And I know that I can’t give it up. It’s my job now. I need to lead this team and take us to a bowl game.”
Barnett, a sophomore, relieved strong-armed senior transfer Steele Jantz for the second straight season and leads the Cyclones (4-1, 1-1 Big 12, No. 25 USA Today coaches poll) against No. 5 (by coaches) Kansas State (5-0, 2-0) into Saturday’s 11 a.m. FX-televised game at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Garland, Texas, native completed 12-of-21 passes for 183 yards and one interception against the Horned Frogs (4-1, 1-1) and upended a ranked opponent for the third time in seven career starts.
“He can take us a long ways and I expect him to take us a long ways,” ISU offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said of Barnett. “And the thing he has to continue to do is run the offense. That’s the big key for us as a group. I can’t call everything for them. They’re the guys out there — as the quarterback — on the field seeing what’s actually happening as a play’s unfolding.”
Jantz struggled in a 24-13 Big 12 season-opening setback to Texas Tech at home two weeks ago, losing four turnovers.
That precipitated another quarterback competition, which Jantz had won in the preseason.
Re-enter Barnett, who also started week eight through the Pinstripe Bowl last season before being benched.
“Jared is a smart player,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads, whose team is the only one in the FBS to knock off a ranked opponent as an underdog on the road in three straight seasons. “He’s a student of the game. He’s a coach’s son. All of those characteristics go into a guy who probably had just marginal talent from an overall strength of arm and so forth standpoint, to zeroing in on what needs to be done, what needs to be accomplished to be successful.”
Be his own worst critic.
“We did a lot of good things but I also had a lot of stupid mistakes,” Barnett said of Saturday’s performance. “The interception, for one, was a terrible mistake. I had a guy open and I just didn’t go through my progressions. I did a lot wrong in the game even though we won. I still have to get better.”
One area that needs little improvement is his communication with receiver Josh Lenz, who caught all three of his touchdown passes, a singe-game career benchmark.
The first two touchdowns stemmed from over-the-top big-play tosses of 51 and 74 yards.
The last, a one-yard slant, came because of savvy and familiarity.
“It was a running play,” said Lenz, who also zipped a touchdown pass to tight end Ernst Brun on a gadget play. “I looked inside, told (Barnett) I was running a slant and he kind of gave me a nod, knowing I was going to do that. Ran it and he put it right there. We had that trust in each other and it worked out great.”
“Stupid” mistakes notwithstanding.
“He doesn’t have to do the jobs of two people,” Rhoads said. “He’s got to do his job well.”
HOOK UP: ISU’s Nov. 10 game at Texas will be broadcast on the fledgling Longhorn Network — but also available on all Iowa-area ABC affiliates.
The Oct. 20 game at Oklahoma State could be played at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., or 7 p.m.If it’s 11 a.m., FX will show it. If it’s later, ABC will be the network to watch.