Execution remains key for Jantz, offense


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Quarterback Steele Jantz looks for an open receiver during the game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Sept. 2, at Jack Trice Stadium. Cyclones lost 13-24.

Jake Calhoun

Since last Saturday, Steele Jantz has been public enemy No. 1 in Ames and among Cyclone fans.

The redshirt senior quarterback’s four turnovers and career-low 73 passing yards were the determining factors for Iowa State’s 24-13 loss to Texas Tech to start conference play.

While Jantz has been the main target of criticism for the loss among Cyclone faithful, coach Paul Rhoads said lack of overall execution was one of the biggest killers.

“To establish anything, you’ve got to go out there as 11 guys and execute a play that’s called and hopefully have better efficiency than we did on Saturday night,” Rhoads said at his weekly news conference on Monday.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the loss — he was not made available for comment after the game — Jantz said Texas Tech’s national-leading defense was a big stressor for him.

“They came up with a good scheme,” Jantz said. “We didn’t adjust properly, and we weren’t able to have success.”

Rhoads said three quarterbacks — Jantz, former starter Jared Barnett and newcomer Sam Richardson — will be in contention for the starting quarterback spot in the team’s upcoming game against No. 16 TCU.

“Obviously, what we’re seeing in practice excites us, that’s why he’s the starter,” Rhoads said of Jantz. “We’ll expect him to keep doing the things that he’s done in practice — and that’s performing well, throwing balls accurately and making the right decisions at the line of scrimmage when he’s making the decisions himself.

“More importantly, we’ve got to see him do it on game day when the lights are on.”

However, Rhoads said a decision would not be made during this week.

Concerns have been addressed with the offensive coaching staff, Rhoads said, but most of the specifics have been kept in house.

The Horned Frogs (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) come into their inaugural Big 12 home opener with the seventh-ranked defense in the nation — not too far off from Texas Tech’s No. 1 defense.

Drawing motivation from last Saturday’s loss before facing a ranked opponent playing a conference game in its newly renovated stadium for the first time should not be tough.

“That definitely was not us [last Saturday,] and we are definitely a much, much better unit than that,” said center Tom Farniok. “Everyone has the extra motivation to be like ‘All right, we can’t let anything close to that happen again,’ especially when the defense plays as well as they did.

“We can’t let them down like that.”

Klein reflects on national mark

Linebacker A.J. Klein tied the national record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown among linebackers in NCAA history Saturday with his 87-yard pick-six in the first quarter against Texas Tech.

“They tried to run a little stop-and-go route with their No. 3, and I just read the quarterback’s eyes as he was coming out of the pocket,” Klein said of the play. “Jake McDonough got pressure and forced the bad throw, and I was just fortunate enough to undercut the throw and run it back.”

The touchdown, which was the first score of the game, was minuscule in hindsight after the loss.

“Coming off a loss like that, individual stats obviously don’t mean much,” Klein said. “Those are more just for your resume. … In the moment I just shrugged it off.”

While owning the school record for defensive touchdowns and also sharing the national record among linebackers, safety Jacques Washington jokingly hinted that Klein’s 6-foot-2-inch, 248-pound frame discourages opponents from taking him down.

“A.J. has a knack for the ball once he gets it,” said safety Jacques Washington. “I feel like everything’s open when A.J. intercepts the ball — nobody’s chasing him into the end zone.”