AMES — In Joel Lanning’s mind, the best performance of his career was overshadowed by a loss.
“That’s the biggest disappointment,” Lanning said. “You can play great and do whatever you want, but at the end of the day I’d much rather play worse and get a win than play so great and not win.”
Still, Iowa State’s junior quarterback turned in a performance that might have been unthinkable in the first couple weeks. He led the Cyclones (1-4, 0-2) to six straight touchdown drives in a 45-42 loss to Baylor and was as accurate as he’s been all year.
Lanning was 17-for-23 for 261 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 57 yards and a score. In his last two games he has a 221.12 passer rating and has completed 70.9 percent of his passes with four touchdowns to zero interceptions.
“We gave him time to throw and he made plays,” said left tackle Nick Fett. “He’s a fantastic quarterback and he’s really smart and really smart with his decisions with the football.
“I wasn’t surprised at all with how he came out because of how he’s been preparing and stuff. He really put us in a position to win.”
Iowa State has operated under a two-quarterback rotation since Week 3, with the switch happening essentially every two series. The first two ISU drives were both eight plays for 70-plus yards — one of which was a 43-yard pass to wide receiver Deshaunte Jones — and coaches decided to roll with the hot hand.
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Sophomore backup Jacob Park was standing at the ready all afternoon, but after Lanning started 7-for-7 — with his first incompletion coming on a drop by running back Mike Warren — the decision was made to go with one guy. Last week’s decision doesn’t necessarily mean Park won’t see the field moving forward.
“When you have two guys playing you’ve got to go with your gut sometimes, too,” said Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell. “It’s never perfect and it’s never right, but try to do what’s right by the football team at the end of the day when you’re the head coach and you’re the offensive coordinator.
“We believe in both of those guys and I still think you’re going to see plenty of Jacob Park.”
After tossing three picks in the first two games, Lanning hasn’t thrown an interception in the last three, spanning 52 passing attempts.
Lanning was much more accurate with his throws, but deflected some credit to his receivers.
“The wide receivers were catching everything,” Lanning said. “Allen (Lazard), I know the play got called back, but he dove for that one ball in the end zone. A ball that was behind Carson Epps, he made a great catch. Hakeem (Butler) had to go up and catch one for me, Trever (Ryen) down the seam.
“They were making unbelievable catches that kept the drive alive for us. They weren’t the greatest balls, but they were making me look good, so it helped out.”
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