Ames, Iowa For Steele Jantz, the last seven weeks have been a whirlwind few could be fully prepared for.
Iowa State’s junior quarterback, playing his first season at the FBS level, has already been through enough ups and downs for an entire season. Jantz and the unbeaten Cyclones got a bye last week, giving them a welcome chance for rest ahead of the Big 12 season.
Iowa State (3-0) will jump right back into the thick of things on Saturday when it hosts No. 17 Texas (3-0). The Longhorns will surely have some extra motivation after being stunned by the Cyclones 28-21 in Austin a year ago.
“Our coaching staff, our players and certainly (Jantz) included, were able to sit back and take a deep breath last week, learn from what’s been accomplished so far and see with a clearer picture what we need to do moving forward,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “(Jantz) took advantage of that just like everybody else. Had a good practice as he continues to learn what it takes to win at this level.”
There is little question Jantz needed a break.
Jantz, a junior college transfer from City College of San Francisco, spent much of August competing for the starting job with Jerome Tiller and Jared Barnett. He earned the nod just two weeks before the season.
Jantz made up for a largely dreadful debut with a stirring fourth quarter to help the Cyclones survive against Northern Iowa 20-19. He played like a star in a 44-41 triple overtime win over Iowa with 279 yards passing and four touchdowns, but quickly came back down to earth with three picks in four passes in the opening quarter at Connecticut on Sept. 16.
Jantz then rolled his foot just before halftime against the Huskies and the way he limped off the field suggested he might not return. But he did, and his fourth-quarter TD pass to Darius Reynolds sealed a 24-20 win that gave Iowa State its first 3-0 start since 2005. Jantz was 18-of-29 passing for 200 yards and those three interceptions.
Jantz said his ailing foot is getting much better, just in time for the Longhorns.
“There good things, obviously, winning three games. But beyond that, I’ve got to minimize a lot of mistakes and, speaking for the offense, we’ve got a long way to go,” Jantz said Monday.
Jantz has completed just 57.5 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns, six interceptions and a passing efficiency rating that ranks 90th in the country. Numbers like those typically belong to quarterbacks on losing teams.
But Jantz has also led his team to comeback wins in the fourth quarter of every game he’s played. He may have helped dig holes for the Cyclones early in games, but his ability to make plays when they are needed the most is a big reason his coaches, teammates and opponents have taken notice.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown, who knows all about the Iowa State-Iowa rivalry after spending 1979-81 as an assistant with the Cyclones, put a lot of stock into Jantz’s performance against the Hawkeyes.
“I think he really sold himself to the team and the Iowa State people because he beat Iowa,” Brown said. “Great comeback. He was the biggest question mark on their football team. He can make plays with his feet. He extends plays.”
The truest measure of how good Jantz is will come over the next nine games, when the Cyclones play a Big 12 schedule that includes five ranked teams. He has already been through so much that it is easy to forget he had never played a Division I game until less than a month ago.