AMES — Iowa State’s Kyle Kempt is a good quarterback — he set Iowa State’s single-season completion percentage record last year, completing 66 percent of his passes.
But his ability might not be the most important aspect of Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell getting him a sixth year of eligibility.
“If Zeb (Noland) is the guy going forward, and this was so critical to getting Kyle Kempt back was, Zeb has grown as much as anybody over the last six months in our program,” Campbell said. “A lot of it is the leadership of Kyle. Kyle has taken him under his wing and those two have really, really grown together.”
Kempt went down with a knee injury Saturday against Iowa in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones lost the game 13-3. Noland, a redshirt sophomore, took over and went 4-for-10 passing for 43 yards.
Campbell said Kempt’s injury has to do with his MCL, but he wasn’t sure the extent of the injury, just that it likely won’t be a season-ending injury.
“I think it’s more day-to-day and we’ll know more was we go on in regard to his availability,” Campbell said.
Noland got significant playing time in two games last season against Oklahoma State and Baylor.
He completed 36 of his 66 attempts for 533 yards and two touchdowns.
“In January, (quarterbacks) coach (Joel) Gordon told me, ‘You never know when your time is going to come, but you need to be ready for it,’” Noland said. “My preparation will be the exact same this week as it was last week. It won’t change at all. That’s one thing he instilled in me, you’re one play away, why not prepare like the starter?”
Noland did something else in January. He followed in Kempt’s footsteps, step for step.
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“(Following him) helped me,” Noland said. “It helped me through the summer and it helped me be prepared for a moment like this.”
Even though his stats weren’t eye-popping, Campbell was happy with how Noland performed in the hostile environment of Kinnick. It was hard for Noland because he entered the game so late that it was obvious Iowa State was trying to pass the majority of the time, so Iowa could tailor its defense to the situation.
“We’ve been here, we’ve played a lot of quarterbacks,” Campbell said. “Fortunately for us, Zeb came in and I thought Zeb did a really good job. He’s a guy that’s started and if he has to start and is our guy starting going forward, I know our team is confident.”
No one, including Campbell, Noland and Kempt, are sure how long Kempt will be out. But for as much as Kempt has helped Noland, Noland will be able to give back to Kempt a little bit.
As a redshirt freshman Noland tore his ACL in fall camp. He has a general idea of what Kempt is dealing with and he’ll help him however he can.
“He’s feeling down,” Noland said of Kempt. “First game against Iowa, he’s down. I’ve been through it, not in a game, but I’ve been through it. He’ll be down but he’ll bounce back and be right back up — that’s who he is.”
But for now, it’s Noland’s turn to lead the Iowa State offense.
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