Passing attack shines in Cyclones’ loss to Oklahoma

Wide receiver, Hakeem Butler, runs towards the end zone during the second quarter of the football game against Oklahoma State. Butler scored the first touchdown for the Cyclone team during the game at Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 15.

Aaron Marner

Iowa State’s offense was one of the main talking points all week after the Cyclones lost to Iowa, 13-3, on Sept. 8.

In that game, Iowa State was held below 200 yards and didn’t score after the first possession.

Against Oklahoma, the offense answered the call.

While the Cyclones fell to the No. 5 Sooners 37-27, Iowa State’s passing attack shredded Oklahoma’s defense apart, keeping the game close.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland came in last week in relief of redshirt senior Kyle Kempt, who sustained an MCL injury against Iowa. Getting his first start since a 23-13 win at Baylor last season, Noland fired for a career-high 360 passing yards against Oklahoma on 25-of-36 passing, including two touchdowns.

“He had a great game,” said coach Matt Campbell. “[He] played really well, made great decisions.”

Noland’s 360 passing yards are the most for an Iowa State signal-caller since Jacob Park’s 371 against West Virginia in 2016.

Noland’s favorite target appeared to be redshirt junior receiver Hakeem Butler.

“Zeb played great,” Butler said. “He came in locked in, ready to play, he knew what to do and he executed.”

Butler tallied a career high of 174 yards, thanks to two deep touchdown passes.

On the first touchdown, Butler caught a pass in traffic, spun off a defender, broke three more tackles and out-ran the defense into the end zone.

“I did my best job to get 1-on-1 and get him the ball and let Hakeem do Hakeem things,” Noland said. “He did it last year against Baylor when I played. I just did my best to let him go out there and do his thing.”

Butler’s two scores came at critical times in the game. His first touchdown, a 51-yard score, tied the game at 10-all in the second quarter.

His second touchdown brought the Cyclones back within one possession after the Sooners took a 14-point lead. The second touchdown also included a broken tackle after Butler and a cornerback were in a 1-on-1 battle.

“If you came and watched us in fall camp, [Butler] is that same guy,” Campbell said. “He’s been the most consistent that I’ve ever seen a big-play receiver [be] in a long time.”

Campbell said the consistency Butler shows in practice and in games helps the quarterbacks.

That might be doubly true for the Cyclones in 2018, as Campbell confirmed after the loss to Oklahoma that Kempt will not return for next week’s game against Akron.

When Iowa State beat Baylor last year with Noland at quarterback, the big play was a 67-yard touchdown pass from Noland to Butler.

“It’s a great feeling,” Noland said. “Every quarterback’s got their guy — [Butler] has two guys — but your eyes light up and you’ve just got to stay calm in those situations so you can make the right throw because… you’ve just got to give him a chance to catch the ball.”