Gutsy QB switch pays off for ISU's Rhoads

There was no midgame switch like last season, when Jared Barnett came on for Steele Jantz in the middle of a loss to Texas A&M.

After Jantz accounted for four turnovers in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech in Week 4, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads opened the competition during practice for the starting quarterback job and Barnett won it.

It didn't take long for the switch to pay off. Barnett hit a streaking Josh Lenz in the first quarter for touchdowns of 51 and 74 yards in a 37-23 win over No. 15 TCU. The victory moved the Cyclones to 4-1, just two wins short of a third bowl berth in four years under Rhoads.

"What goes through my head is ‘Finally.’ Plays that were called in the Texas Tech game but never even got thrown, because of protection possibly, because of team cover, because of not pulling the trigger, so 'finally' is what goes through my mind," Rhoads said. "Glad we got them executed successfully."

The opening script of plays turned explosive quickly, with Barnett hitting Albert Gary for a 19-yard gain on his second pass and Lenz for the 51-yard score down the right sideline on his third attempt.

"You go into every game with some shots, big-hit plays, explosive plays if you will, and we finally were able to connect on them," Rhoads said. "The opening touchdown was a play that as a part of a sequence, we thought we might get a one-on-one opportunity and Jared was able to deliver the ball and Josh was able to win."

Rhoads made the decision last week to switch starters and sat down Barnett and Jantz on Friday, making it clear that the move was only for one week. Barnett's performance all but assured himself a second week as starter, but Rhoads wanted to make sure that part of the message sunk in for Jantz, who led Iowa State to a 3-0 start in consecutive seasons, including a pair of wins over rival Iowa.

Barnett played one of the best games of his career in Fort Worth, Texas, a short drive from his hometown of Garland, a northeast suburb of Dallas.

"Going back to Texas was a factor in the decision, the fact that he’s always led our team when he’s played quarterback," Rhoads said. "Hasn’t always made the plays, necessarily, but he’s led our team and we were at a point where that’s what we needed. We needed somebody to make good decisions and steer the ship and not necessarily go out and win the game. He did what we asked for on Saturday."

Even on the one play when Iowa State had to pull Barnett -- his helmet came off, and by new NCAA rule, he had to sit for a play -- offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham had enough confidence in his senior to have him test TCU's defense deep.

"I think Steele appreciates that," Rhoads said.

Saturday, a much tougher challenge awaits, and with it, a much smaller margin of error. TCU turned the ball over five times on Saturday and was playing without all three of its 700-yard rushers from a year ago. The Frogs also didn't have quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest, and left the team to seek treatment at an in-patient facility this week.

No. 6 Kansas State will come to Ames at full strength, led by a Heisman candidate in Collin Klein.

"You’ll struggle to find a finer-coached football team and a better prepared football team in the country than a Bill Snyder-coached Kansas State ball club," Rhoads said. "There’s no way we can count on five turnovers to help us win this game."

Instead, he'll have to count on Barnett.