COMMENTARY: Minor tweaks on offense could go a long way


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

James White, ISU running back, looks for an open receiver during the game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Jack Trice Stadium. Cyclones lost 13-24.

Dean Berhow-Goll

ISU quarterback Steele Jantz has been picked apart by fans and media after last Saturday’s poor performance in a 24-13 loss against Texas Tech.

Jantz does not deserve all of the criticism he has be handed since then. Rather, the play-calling and Jantz both deserve it equally.

Last Saturday, the offensive staff leaned considerably more on Jantz than it did in the first three games. Jantz, who has not historically been an elite quarterback, was asked to do it all, which again, he has not done consistently in the past.

Instead, the Cyclones should have stuck to what they do best: run the football.

In the first quarter, the chains were only moved twice, both coming from running plays.

The second quarter was a dead end on offense as well, with four drives: Three were three-and-outs and the other an interception on first down. The team gained just 17 yards in the entire quarter, while 63 were netted the entire first half. 

At halftime, adjustments were obviously made: A credit to the coaching staff. During the first drive of the second half — Iowa State’s only offensive score of the game — the play-calling was a complete contrast to the first half. 

Immediately, Shontrelle Johnson had a 14-yard run on the second play of the drive. Follow that with two straight sacks, and they were again faced with a long third down, which they saw throughout the game only converting 5-of-14 third downs at less than a third-and-7.

After Jantz converted a third-and-20 by scrambling 21 yards across the field, the offense settled in and ran the ball.

Eight of the next 10 plays were running plays. Johnson ran for 19 yards on three plays. And after a Jantz keeper during a third-and-4, Jantz hit Jarvis West with a short pass for 9 yards and a first down — Jantz’s only first down through the air in three quarters.

That first down was followed by four more rushes, including three straight to James White for a first down. Then Jeff Woody found himself in the mix for one yard. On a second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, a play-action pass was called, and Ernst Brun found himself in the corner of the end zone to catch Jantz’s pass that flew over the defender.

Eight rush plays and two passes — seasoning the running game with short passes and the occasional play-action over the top — that seems to be Iowa State’s bread and butter.

Establishing the ground game on that drive is what allowed Brun to be open on the touchdown pass.

That is where the play-calling had been based earlier this season. Handing the ball off to two play-making running backs, who are both explosive and had productive games (White had nine carries for 57 yards, Johnson had nine carries for 44 yards) is more productive than 19 rushes with Jantz on the option-read. 

Granted, some of those were him evading pressure, but if his 21-yard scramble in the third quarter was taken away, Jantz ran the ball 18 times and netted a negative 7 yards. 

Jantz also can’t keep turning the ball over inexplicably. The offensive staff made adjustments, but the “Man of Steele” has to as well.

Two turnovers came on two straight drives in the fourth quarter: One happened during what seemed to be a miscommunication between Jantz and receiver Josh Lenz on a third-and-1.

The other came also on a third-and-short where Jantz, running to his right, lost his grip on the football and lost the fumble, to spoil the last chance Iowa State had to tie the game.

Those are the turnovers that make the thoughts of Jared Barnett seem favorable in the minds of ISU fans. Those are the turnovers Jantz simply cannot make if he wants to lead this team to a bowl game, let alone keep his job.

Both the coaching staffers who call the plays and the offense players who run them deserve blame for what happened against the Red Raiders. Let us also not forget Texas Tech is an underrated team, especially on defense, which currently ranks No. 1 in the nation against the pass.

The bottom line is Iowa State’s coaching staff cannot ask a quarterback of Jantz’s caliber to go out, take total control and win a game against a Big 12 team on his own. They just need to ask him not to lose it.

Dean Berhow-Goll is a junior in pre-journalism from Ventura, Iowa