Iowa State receiver Jauan Wesley sprinted up the hash marks painted on the turf at Jack Trice Stadium, taking three Kansas defenders with him.
A second later, teammate Allen Lazard cruised into the opened up space in the Jayhawks secondary to make a 19-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 during Iowa State's final drive of the first half. Four plays later, Lazard put the finishing touches on the drive with a 9-yard touchdown reception.
The third down conversion during Iowa State's 38-13 win over Kansas illustrated the problems the Big 12's most overlooked receiving corps can create for a defense. By running a route he wasn't expected to get the ball with urgency, Wesley drew the attention of half of Kansas' secondary leaving Lazard completely unnoticed as he ran a slant route. Wesley and Lazard are just two of the receivers who make up a unit that could end up causing havoc during conference play as the Cyclones aim to return to a bowl game.
"It's the most talented group I've played with, the most driven, a lot of guys who are coachable, which I don't think we've had in the past," senior Quenton Bundrage said.
In a conference that boasts many star-studded receiving corps, nobody in the Big 12 has spread the ball to its receivers better than Paul Rhoads' team. According to ESPN Stats and Information, five different Cyclones receivers have at least 15 targets this season, tying Texas Tech —who has played one more game— for the Big 12 lead. In addition, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are the only teams with five different receivers with double digit receptions.
"This is a very talented group of wide receivers," offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said.
And a group that complements each other very well.
"There's so much explosiveness and so much room for growth to make as the year goes on," Lazard said of the group. "Each of us has a unique game. We fit well with each other."
Lazard is a classic No. 1 target as a big body (6-foot-5, 223 pounds) who moves like a smaller receiver. The former ESPN300 member leads the team with 38 targets for 21 receptions, 225 yards and two touchdowns.
D'Vario Montgomery (6-6, 213) joins Lazard as a big target on the outside. The South Florida transfer is tied with Lazard for the team lead in touchdown receptions (two) and has been targeted 15 times for 12 receptions for 187 yards.
Wesley is a quick slot receiver who does his best work in one-on-one situations in the open field. His 16.2 yards per catch average is the best on the squad. He's been targeted 19 times for 10 receptions, 162 yards and one touchdown.
Dondre Daley could be considered the surprise of the group. After a strong preseason camp, Daley leads the Cyclones with a 90 reception percentage. He's been targeted 20 times for 18 receptions, 149 yards and one touchdown.
Bundrage is hoping to return to the explosiveness of his sophomore season after a ACL injury took away his 2014 campaign. He's been targeted 20 times for 11 receptions, 103 yards and one touchdown.
"I feel like I'm the mentor and leader of the group," said Bundrage, who had 49 receptions for 676 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. "I've matured a lot. It made me become a better leader. With the injury, all I could do was be vocal. I was talking to them about taking advantage of opportunities because you never know when the opportunity could be taken away from you."
It's a supreme collection of receiving talent that makes quarterback Sam B. Richardson's job a lot easier and could make the Cyclones a scary team to face, particularly for any defense that isn't well-equipped to handle a handful of quality targets.
"We're not a selfish group," Bundrage said. "We know there are games where some guys will catch more all than the other. We have great chemistry in the receiving room. Whenever they double cover somebody, we have someone open on the other side. I think we have playmaking ability all over the field. It's always a matchup problem for the defense."