Steele Jantz

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Steele Jantz: A player with probably the coolest name in college football, Jantz is a player who should be watched Saturday. Jantz has had a shaky season, throwing for 1,410 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has completed 64 percent of his passes which is impressive, but he has folded under the pressure of playing top Big 12 opponents. Three interceptions against Texas Tech, and no touchdown passes against Oklahoma pretty much sum up Jantz’s woes against the elite. However, when Jantz is on, he is one of the best passers in the conference, if not the country. Against Baylor he threw for 381 yards and five touchdowns, proving that he is capable of putting up big numbers. At 6-foot-3, 224 pounds, Jantz possesses prototypical size for an elite quarterback. If the senior can figure out how to put his physical skills together with his passing, expect big things. While the season has been up and down for Jantz, Texas should still consider him a threat.

Jake McDonough: McDonough is a big man at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds which makes him a perfect piece to slow down the Texas run game. McDonough has compiled 25 tackles to go along with two sacks. He also has two passes broken up this season. That’s pretty good for a lineman. His ability to rush and get pressure on the quarterback also gives McDonough the ability to break up passes on any play if he isn’t contained. The Texas offensive line is stout, but McDonough could present some matchup problems with his size. Expect to see McDonough make an impressive play or two before this game is over.

Durrell Givens: The Cyclones may only be 2-4 in the Big 12, but their defense has performed admirably all season long. The defense ranks No. 29 in points given up, and Durrell Givens has played a big part in that. Givens is a 6-foot defensive back who has compiled 63 total tackles, good for third on his team. His biggest contributions have come in coverage however, as Givens leads the team with three interceptions. He has also forced three fumbles on the year which shows that he can make plays in the open field. Texas possesses a solid passing attack to go along with a stout run game and Givens possesses the ability to disrupt both. The Longhorns should look to keep Givens at bay by keeping the ball away from his defensive zone. 

After a close call Saturday the Texas Longhorns sit in third place in the Big 12 with 4-2 conference record. The Longhorns escaped Lubbock with a 31-22 win against Texas Tech, where their playmakers showed up just when they needed it. Despite a lackluster record, Iowa State presents some problems Texas needs to be mindful of this weekend.

Rush the Passer: Iowa State is a team known more for its defense than its offense. It currently ranks No. 29 in total defense while ranking No. 89 in total offense. When their offense is on however, the team is alive. If quarterback Steele Jantz is having a good performance, the team likely has a good chance of winning. The Longhorns should look to step up the pressure and disrupt Jantz, whose numbers are streaky to say the least. Jantz has been sacked 11 times this season which amounts to just over one per game. Against top-tier teams such as Oklahoma and Texas Tech, pressure forced Jantz into bad decisions and consequential turnovers. Jantz possesses many elite physical tools which make him a player to watch no matter what his numbers indicate. For this reason, the Longhorns should force Jantz into the pressured throws that have proven to be kryptonite for the Cyclones this season.

Pound the Line: Iowa State has done a solid job against the run this season, with Oklahoma being the exception. The Cyclones have a big defensive line that can clog up holes and make things tough for an opponent’s running game. Texas should look to use its strength to pound the defensive line of the Cyclones and wear them down. When Iowa State gets pressure in the backfield it can make a lot of plays, as shown in the big win against TCU in which the Cyclones forced five turnovers. Texas should enter this game with a lot of confidence in their rushing attack after an impressive breaking out of sorts from freshman Johnathan Gray against Texas Tech. Iowa State is giving up just over 21 points a game and pounding the ball relentlessly will slow down their big defenders and allow running lanes to open up for bigger plays.

Be Creative: The Cyclones, as stated already, have a solid and methodical defense. If an offense makes mistakes, the Cyclones capitalize on them. They follow their game plan every time out and force teams to use their strengths to beat them. To distract the Cyclones from the monotony of their defensive pursuits, the Longhorns should look to be a bit creative on offense. The receiving corps for Texas has fallen under the radar this season but possesses great speed that should be used more effectively. Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis have come up big when called upon, and their speed should be used in this game to wear down the secondary of the Cyclones. A few jet sweeps wouldn’t hurt. Maybe  a few reverses or direct snaps to a motioning receiver. Creative play calling would allow the receivers to step more into their element by utilizing their speed. This would also distract Iowa State’s methodical game plan and force them to make big adjustments. 

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz runs from Baylor cornerback Ahmad Dixon during the first half of the game Oct. 27 in Ames, Iowa.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

AMES, Iowa — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Big 12 makes no sense.

The preseason favorite is always Oklahoma, which always finds a way to slip up; West Virginia looked like an unstoppable force until its pedestrian loss to Texas Tech; and anybody can essentially beat anybody because everyone is already beating up on each other as it is.

My jaw is still on the floor of the press box at Jack Trice Stadium from when Iowa State upset then-No. 2 Oklahoma State last season. Watching the crowd storm the field for the second time that season with the entire country watching on a primetime Friday night game on ESPN, Iowa State crystallized the otherwise-latent parity of the Big 12 Conference.

Going into that game, I didn’t think Iowa State — which had been struggling to become bowl-eligible with three ranked teams remaining on its schedule — even remotely had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the nation. On paper, Oklahoma State was the superior team and had proven itself as such against the rest of the Big 12 leading up to that game.

But the Cowboys didn’t execute as well as they should have, allowing the Cyclones to come back from a two-touchdown deficit to send the game into overtime. In the second overtime, the Cyclone defense picked off a pass from Brandon Weeden to set up the game-winning touchdown for a result that would essentially play into to the installment of a four-team playoff of the BCS since Oklahoma State was snubbed from a shot at playing for a national title.

Even though Iowa State is a 10.5-point underdog for its game against No. 19 Texas this weekend, don’t bat an eye at the notion of an upset considering the Cyclones won in Austin two seasons ago.

Yes, the teams are different now and Iowa State is without its leading tackler in linebacker Jake Knott for the rest of the season. But Iowa State is 3-2 in the state of Texas under coach Paul Rhoads and has already had a victory in the state this season against TCU in Fort Worth Oct. 6.

In those five games in the state of Texas, Iowa State has outscored its opponents by a narrow margin of 142-135 with all three wins coming against ranked teams (No. 22 Texas in 2010, No. 19 Texas Tech in 2011 and No. 15 TCU this year).

There are 19 players on the ISU roster that hail from the state of Texas and many of them always have an extra spark in their game whenever they play a conference opponent in the state of Texas.

“I feel like it’s personal when I play them,” said running back James White before the win against TCU. “Any team that’s from Texas, I want to do my best against them — prove them wrong, show them what they missed out on.”

But yet, the main issue Iowa State has been having is its play at quarterback.

Quarterback Steele Jantz earned the starting job after a disparaging loss to Oklahoma State three weeks ago had stripped then-starter Jared Barnett of his job.

Jantz suffered his first loss as a starter last season in a 37-14 contest against Texas. In that game, the Cyclones laid an egg as the Longhorns took a 34-0 lead going into halftime.

This season, Jantz hasn’t looked stellar even though his stat line isn’t as bad on the surface — 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 63.6 percent pass completion percentage.

But Jantz’s main issue is that he lacks the ability to lead the offense on a consistent basis. From what I’ve seen in my two years of covering the team, the offense sputters more than half the time with Jantz behind center and his chemistry with the wide receivers is not the greatest.

If Jantz has a bad game, the offense will not be able to get things going. This means the defense will wear down and give up more yardage and points than it should, making it almost a sure loss for Iowa State.

I guarantee you Mack Brown and his staff already know this having successfully executed this game plan a year ago.

But then again, as has been proven a lot this season, things are not always what they seem, especially in the Big 12.

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Cyclones performing well in Lone Star State, look to Jantz for spark

Quarterback Steele Jantz looks to pass on Sept. 10 at Jack Trice Stadium against Northern Iowa. Jantz finished the game with 279 yards passing with four touchdowns and 42 yards rushing.

Photo Credit: Gene Pavelko | Iowa State Daily

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz has led the Cyclones to the team’s first 3-0 start since 2005. His stats would make you
think otherwise.

Jantz has completed 57.5 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns and six interceptions.

“They’re good things, obviously, winning three games,” Jantz said. “But beyond that, I’ve got to minimize a lot of mistakes and, speaking for the offense, we’ve got a long way to go.”

The junior competed for the starting job at Iowa State with Jerome Tiller and Jared Barnett throughout the summer and was given the job two weeks before the season. Jantz can play with his feet and is known for keeping plays, and his team, alive in games.

“You can talk leadership, moxie, you can talk all those thing, but his production when those games have been on the line?” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “He’s delivered throwing the ball and he’s delivered running the ball.”
Rhoads believes that Jantz has turned the ball over too many times and that consistency is something he needs to work on.

But, he said Jantz is only getting better.

“He’s made a higher number than we would like of poor decisions,” Rhoads said. “He’s made great decisions and he’s made some spectacular plays. I would say at this point he’s inconsistent. Certainly not unusual for a first-time starter at this level, coming off a successful junior college career.”

Jantz is a transfer from San Francisco Community College. According to Mack Brown, he has been compared to a young Aaron Rodgers, who transferred to Berkeley from Butte Community College.

Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks said in order to win the game, the Longhorns must stop Jantz.

“He’s good at extending the play,” Hicks said. “We have to get after him a little bit and be able to contain him and stop him.”
Jantz’s own teammates are impressed with his ability to move.

“I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about him, he just makes plays and finds a way,” said Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson after the Cyclone’s 44-41 triple-overtime win over Iowa.

Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott said Jantz is deceptively fast and he is smooth in his playmaking.

In all three games this season, Jantz has led fourth-quarter comebacks. He had a quarterback sneak in the final seconds against Northern Iowa and two fourth-down conversions in the Cyclone’s overtime win over Iowa. Iowa State has always had trouble beating rival, Iowa.

Although Jantz has struggled with consistency, he has thrown for 666 yards this season and run for 112 yards. Mack Brown has been impressed with Jantz’s ability to lead the Cyclones to victory despite adversity.

“Not only did he bring them back [against Iowa], but the play he made on the goal line where he runs up inside and bounces back out and sprints to the right and hits the guy to win the game in overtime was just an amazing play,” Brown said.

Jantz was named Big 12 offensive player of the week after the team’s comeback win over Iowa. In the game, Jantz threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns. He led the team to three-straight touchdown drives. This was only his second game at Iowa State.

But in the Cyclone’s win over 24-20 win over Connecticut, Jantz had three interceptions on his first four pass attempts. In that game, he suffered a sprained foot.

Although he limped off the field and it appeared that he was finished for the game, he led the team to a comeback victory over the Huskies with his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Darius Reynolds.

“I haven’t missed anything,” Jantz said. “In practice I haven’t been running as much but not really missing anything.”

He said by Saturday, he will be 100 percent, and for the Longhorns, that could be a bad thing.

Published on September 30, 2011 as: Dual-threat Jantz leading Cyclone charge

The defense is b

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

The cornerbacks are young, but don’t call them that.

The most productive unit on the Texas defense this season is also the least experienced. Go figure.

“They don’t play young,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “They don’t behave young. Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndum act like they’ve been here forever. They’re very diligent, they want to know everything.”

All three talented young cornerbacks each have an interception and a forced fumble after three games. They call themselves the “money makers” and have lived up to the moniker so far. While many expected the Longhorns veteran linebackers to carry the defense, it’s been the defensive backs who have made the biggest impact.

“They might be playing the best on the defense,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. “They’re getting after the ball, catching the interceptions. If they can keep that up, we can keep it rolling.”

The secondary forced four turnovers against UCLA in the Longhorns’ last game, including interceptions by three different players. They’ve been tackling better this year as well. Five of the Longhorns top nine tacklers are defensive backs, including junior safety Kenny Vaccaro, who is second on the team with 25.

“They’re tackling better than I’ve seen us tackle around here in a while,” said Acho, the team’s leading tackler.

Second-year corners Phillips and Byndum each have three tackles for loss, second only to Acho’s four. This group of defensive backs prides themselves on being sure-tacklers, much to Diaz’s delight.

“I’ve been around some secondaries that all they want to do is race each other,” Diaz said. “All they want to do is talk about how fast and athletic they are.

“This secondary wants to talk about who got the hardest hit. They are really priding themselves right now on being a physical, tackling secondary. And when you will tackle as a secondary, what you find is that big plays are harder to get on you.”

Yes, the defensive backfield has yet to allow a big play this season, but they will face a new challenge on Saturday against an Iowa State team known for picking up yards in large chunks. The Cyclones have four plays of 40-plus yards in three games, matching their total from the entire 2010 season. The difference has been quarterback Steele Jantz, a dual-threat player and Big 12 newcomer.

“[Jantz] will scramble to run and scramble to throw, which causes an immense amount of pressure on our coverage,” Diaz said. “It’s hard for them to understand when to come out of coverage and when not to. We have to be disciplined in our coverage, it’s quite a stress.”

The secondary will have its hands full trying to contain Jantz, who can turn a broken play into a touchdown. All four of the Cyclones 40-plus yard plays have come via the pass.

“It will be a big test for us to stay in coverage because [Jantz] has created plays and really determined the outcome in a couple of games,” Akina said. “You’ve got to cover them twice when you have a quarterback that can extend plays.”

The defensive backs, however, anticipate extending their takeaway streak to three games.

“Coach Diaz and Coach Akina are going to put us in spots to make plays, it’s just our job to make them,” said senior safety Blake Gideon.

Phillips has led the way with two interceptions and a forced fumble over the last two games, but his value stretches beyond his knack for finding the ball. The Garland native has played three positions in the secondary already this season, showcasing the versatility that Akina covets.

“What he’s doing for us playing corner, playing safety and playing nickel is really something,” Akina said. “For him to be able to handle three positions flawlessly, to be athletic enough to play corner, physical enough to play safety and then have the awareness on nickel to be a blitzer or a cover guy, really speaks volumes for him as a total player.”

Phillips’ ability to play multiple roles helped fill the void during senior safety Christian Scott’s three-game suspension to start the year. Scott, though, will make his 2011 debut on Saturday in Ames, giving the Longhorns yet another playmaker in the secondary.

“Getting a veteran player back who has a real physical presence is certainly a bonus,” Akina said. “It’s good timing. He hasn’t missed a beat and he did a good job while he was away of staying in physical condition and staying involved in the game.”

While Phillips, Byndum and Diggs only have six combined starts between them, they’ve played with poise beyond their years. And they’re only going to improve.

“We gain confidence each week,” Phillips said. “We’re getting better each week. We still have a lot of stuff to work on and we’re not perfect, but with each win we gain more confidence.”

That’s a scary thought for Big 12 offenses.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: 'Money Makers' playing harder, faster, stronger

1. Oklahoma- While Landry Jones was able to connect with receiver Ryan Broyles for three touchdowns against Missouri last week, he also threw two interceptions. The Sooners were down by 11 points early in the game but were able to regain control and win by 10 points. The Sooners still remain the toast of the conference and should handle Ball State this week before the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 8 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma State- The Cowboys were able to come back from a 17-point deficit at the half to defeat the SEC-bound Aggies. Three receivers hauled in 10 or more catches from Brandon Weeden, who threw a school-record 60 passes. The Cowboys are scary good on offense and even flashed some defense to move up to fifth in this week’s AP poll. Weeden and company will welcome Kansas to Stillwater this week.

3. Baylor- Robert Griffin has cemented his name among the serious Heisman candidates and has thrown more touchdowns than incompletions. Let that one sink in for a minute — he is red hot and so are the Bears. While their defense may not be the best, the Bears are scoring more than 50 points a game on offense and have the firepower to stay in any game. The Bears will open conference play this week in Manhattan, Kan.

4. Texas A&M- The Aggies weren’t able to win their big matchup against Oklahoma State but with much of the season left to be played they are still in contention for the Big 12 crown. The Cowboys were able to move the ball with ease against the Aggies in the second half and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was a completely different player for Texas A&M after halftime. The Aggies will have a shot at redemption against a good Arkansas team this week.

5. Texas- After a bye week the Longhorns will travel to Ames, Iowa, to play Iowa State. Texas is still very young and this will be another road test for the Longhorns. Cyclones quarterback Steele Jantz simply gets the job done and will have to be contained if Texas expects to win. How the Longhorns respond throughout this game could be very telling of how they will fare the rest of the season.

6. Kansas State- The Wildcats pulled out a tough road win against Miami last week to stay undefeated on the season. Quarterback Colin Klein is the team’s leading passer and rusher so the keys to their continued success remain in his hands- and feet. Baylor awaits this week in what is sure to be an exciting game as the Wildcat defense is giving up the seventh lowest points-per-game in the nation at 10.3.

7. Iowa State- Running back Shontrelle Johnson and receiver Darius Reynolds have helped take some of the pressure off of Steele Jantz and have turned in a surprisingly good season thus far. Jantz will rely on both Johnson and Reynolds once again this week with the Longhorns coming to town. The Longhorns will test the offensive line of the Cyclones as well as their depth on defense. This game has upset potential and the Cyclones will be ready to turn in their fourth-straight victory this season.

8. Missouri- The Tigers showed some moxie in staying with Oklahoma for a good portion of last week’s game, but couldn’t get it done when the game was on the line. Their defense continues to take hits with injuries and doesn’t look strong at the moment. Freshman quarterback James Franklin has played well despite his inexperience, but he isn’t getting much help from the rest of the offense. The Tigers face a tough road test this week against Kansas State.

9. Texas Tech- Nevada nearly left Lubbock with a victory, but a late touchdown pass by Seth Doege kept the Red Raiders undefeated for at least another week. It’s pretty clear that the Red Raider defense will struggle throughout this season. Offensively, Doege has tossed 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He may be the lone bright spot on a team that is still trying to find its identity. They are still undefeated, but their wins haven’t come against the best teams. The Red Raiders play Kansas this week in a battle of the conference bottom-feeders.

10. Kansas- Opposing teams are hanging 44 points a game on the Jayhawks, and that number could rise this week against Texas Tech. The Jayhawks had a week to let their 66-24 defeat against Georgia Tech settle in and should be rested from all the running they did in that game. As far as offense goes, the Jayhawks can put up points as is evidenced by two consecutive 40-point performances to start the season. If nothing else, this week’s game against the Red Raiders will be interesting to watch.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Big 12 Power Rankings

Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz, No. 2, leaps over a Northern Iowa defender in their first game of the season. Jantz has traveled a long road to become a Division I starter.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

One year ago, Steele Jantz was trotting on to the field of RAM Stadium about to lead the City College of San Francisco football team at quarterback against another Northern California Conference opponent.

Flash forward and the 22 year old, who only started one game at quarterback while in high school, has led the Iowa State Cyclones to a 2-0 start, including an upset 44-41 victory over in-state rival Iowa in the third overtime last Saturday.

“You are going from one level of football to the next, and as the competition increases and the level of play increases, there is that unknown factor,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “[Jantz] has the personality that he has shown us thus far that he’ll be unflappable when it comes to 55,000 screaming fans and playing under the lights.”

Prior to this season, Jantz’s only FBS football experience was playing the role of then Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on the University of Hawaii’s scout team as a true freshman. After redshirting at Hawaii, Jantz joined the junior college ranks and transferred to City College of San Francisco in search of more playing time.

During his 2010 season at the helm of the City College of San Francisco offense, Jantz threw for 3,075 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for 601 yards and 14 TDs to lead the Rams to an 11-1 record and a spot in the California State community college title game.

Jantz’s play caught the eye of Rhoads and Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman who offered him a spot on the Cyclone’s roster and a chance to compete for the job of starting QB.

After a battle in training camp with Jerome Tiller — who was eventually ruled academically ineligible and forced to sit out the 2011 season ­— Jantz won the starting position and was handed the ball for the Cyclones’ season opener against Northern Iowa.

“Steele emerged from a group of quarterbacks by displaying the three qualities we were looking for most consistently. That’s decision-making. That’s throwing accuracy and that’s getting things done with his feet,” Rhoads said.

In his first start as a FBS quarterback, Steele went 18-40 in the air for 187 yards and three interceptions and rushed for 80 yards and two TDs. Despite struggling throughout most of the game, Steele led the Cyclones to two scoring drives in the final five minutes and gave Iowa State a 20-19 win over Northern Iowa.

“I tried not to pay attention to the nerves, but there were some nerves,” Jantz said about his first game at the head of the Cyclones’ offense. “Luckily as the game went on, I was able to settle down a little bit.”

Despite a rocky, although victorious, start to his FBS career, Jantz brought his name to the front of the minds of the Cyclone faithful with a performance against Iowa that earned him Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors and caused Iowa State fans to rush the field.

“When I do things bad, when I make mistakes, I try to make sure that’s the last time that’s going to happen,” Jantz said following Saturday’s victory. “I’m the type of guy that really learns from mistakes so hopefully every game I’ll be getting better.”

Throwing for 279 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in addition to rushing for 42 yards, with a QB rating of 166.58, Jantz led Iowa State to the tying touchdown with 1:17 left in regulation and then to touchdowns in each of the three overtime periods.

“He’s just a natural quarterback,” said Cyclone junior wide receiver Josh Lenz. “He has a knack of making plays when he needs to and that’s what he’s doing.”

As he continues his transition from junior college to the FBS, Jantz will need to have more performances like his one against Iowa if the Cyclones are to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

“Steele Jantz makes plays. He made plays as a junior college player that we recruited and he’s making plays as an Iowa State Cyclone now,” Rhoads said. “Some guys rise up when the spotlight’s the brightest and he certainly has in two football games.”