ISU faces yet another top QB Saturday vs. Baylor

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AMES — By Black Friday, Iowa State’s defense will have faced roughly one-third of the nation’s top quarterbacks.

But that’s not necessarily a revelation.

That’s simply life in the Big 12.

“We don’t even think about that,” said Cyclone free safety Jacques Washington, who faces Baylor and the nation’s most prolific offense in Saturday's 6 p.m. Fox Sports Net-televised Big 12 game at Jack Trice Stadium. “These offenses are explosive. Obviously the quarterbacks are great and they have great players surrounding them.”

Nick Florence this week, Landry Jones of Oklahoma next.

Both are Davey O’Brien Award semifinalists — two of five in the conference peppering that elite list of play-callers.

Meanwhile, ISU (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) is trying to find a viable quarterback among its non-redshirt roster to field against the Bears (3-3, 0-3).

Jared Barnett, Steele Jantz and third-string Sam Richardson once again were embroiled this week in a competition for the No. 1 spot.

[POLL QUESTION: Which ISU QB would you start Saturday?]

Details remained under wraps as none were made available to the media and Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads finally pledged to “go mute” about the situation.

“I’ve got three,” Rhoads said succinctly at this week’s news conference.

And that’s that.

“They’re not just laying down,” ISU running back Jeff Woody said. “They’re not saying, ‘You know what, Steele’s got it,’ or, ‘Jared’s got it,’ or ‘Sam’s got it.’ They’re all fighting for the position and they’re all trying to do the best they can. It’s just a matter of missing a throw here, missing a read there and trying to get that thing corrected and get it straightened out.”

Baylor’s a good place to start.

The Bears have burrowed to the bottom of the FBS in scoring defense (48 points per game) and total defense (533.2 yards).

So can it be a get-well game for the struggling ISU offense?

No one’s putting it precisely that way, but ...

“Everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘Am I doing my job the best that I can?’” Woody said. “And if the answer’s anything less than yes, you have to take accountability for that.”

Rhoads confirmed what Woody, tailback Shontrelle Johnson and Barnett have said about an offense averaging a better-than-Kansas 20.2 points in conference games: That it’s a step off here, a hand placement off there.

“But that’s the difference between winning and losing,” Rhoads said. The team on the low end of the scoreboard generally always says that. it’s getting a block, it’s sustaining a block. It’s looking the ball in and catching it. It’s making this call in this situation instead of that call in that situation. So Monday I’d like to come in and say we were — that step short we’ve been, we capitalized on this particular Saturday.”

Baylor’s offense tends to be a step long.

The Florence-led unit churns up 574.2 yards per game, which ranks third in the FBS.

It’s not all Air Bears, either, which is why the Cyclones’ defense will try to neuter the ground game first.

“We got bludgeoned last year with both (the pass and run) — and that’s what happens when you try to stop multiple things,” Rhoads said. “You’d better stop one thing ... then you rally and try to control the others.”

Enter Florence, who performs with speed and precision, but can be led down a turnover-filled path.

He’s thrown 10 interceptions. The Cyclones picked off fellow O’Brien semifinalist Seth Doege of Texas Tech twice.

“Playing defense, you have to be greedy,” ISU safety Durrell Givens said. “We can still be better. It’s all about staying hungry.”

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