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AMES — Through all the rain and soggy turf, Joel Lanning gained his footing as the go-to quarterback.
Last season when Iowa State played at Baylor while a hurricane hit the coasts of Texas, Lanning became more than just a situational quarterback. He relieved Sam Richardson in the second quarter and went 12-for-17 passing for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
That’s when he felt like things were starting to click as he assumed the starting role.
“Even though we lost it was still fun,” Lanning said. “It was just a good way to start things for me and kind of get going. I threw for three touchdowns and we kind of got the offense moving a little bit and running some touchdowns.”
Lanning took over the keys to the offense when Iowa State was already down, 35-0. The Cyclones (1-3, 0-1) hope to avoid getting into that type of hole when No. 13 Baylor (4-0, 1-0) invades Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. on FS1.
After that game in Waco last year, Lanning never looked back as the clear starting quarterback. He’s still in a starting role this season, but holds steady in a rotation with sophomore Jacob Park, who arrived in Ames this past summer.
The two quarterbacks have combined to complete 39 of 65 passes for 518 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in the last two games. They will be tasked with keeping up with the high-tempo offense of Baylor. The Bears average 84.8 plays per game and have scored 14 touchdowns in under two minutes.
“You’ve just got to make your decisions a little bit faster,” Park said. “Know your playbook, know your reads, know your keys and just know everything is going to be half a second faster, that’s all.”
While ISU coaches have helped players navigate this quarterback rotation, they’ve tried to make practices equal for both. Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning thinks no matter the situation, even if the Cyclones had a clear-cut starter, they would try to keep reps equal throughout the week.
“We’ve just got to do a good job kind of taking a pitch count on who got what reps on this day,” Manning said. “Sometimes it’s a couple plays, rotate. Sometimes we kind of do it by period, but we make sure that each of them has the plays that need to be covered on a consistent basis.”
Baylor, which averages 42 points per game, has become known for its prolific offense, but has improved its defense in recent years. Through four games, the Bears are second in the Big 12 and 22nd nationally in total defense, giving up 310 yards per game.
Three of Baylor’s first four opponents were Northwestern State, SMU and Rice, which aren’t exactly juggernauts. And with Iowa State coming off a confidence-building win against San Jose State, an opportunity is there for the ISU quarterbacks to continue an upward trend.
“As of right now four weeks into the season with how they continue to prepare and how they continue to practice, (they) have earned the right to play in games,” said Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell. “We’ll do a good job as coaches to continue to find the best ways to allow our team to have success with our two quarterbacks.”
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