AMES — There’s a common thread to Iowa State receiver/returner/surprise quarterback Jarvis West’s uncommonly diverse routes to three touchdowns in Saturday’s 32-28 loss to 19th-ranked Kansas State.
Each time the 5-7, 171-pound senior blazed into the end zone, one of the first teammates to offer hugs and high-fives was full-time quarterback Sam Richardson.
“It was Jarvis’s day,” Richardson said Monday as West scooped up three national honors, as well as Big 12 special teams player of the week recognition. “He had a great day. He stepped up and, obviously, we needed just a couple more plays out of everyone out there to win.”
It’s unremarkable, of course, that Richardson met West in the end zone after delivering a 17-yard touchdown pass to him that started ISU’s string of 28 straight points that weren’t enough to stave off the Wildcats.
But for Richardson to sprint down the field and immediately congratulate West after both his 82-yard punt return for touchdown and his 29-yard scoring strike to Allen Lazard?
That meant a lot to West, who will try to help the Cyclones (0-2) beat Iowa (2-0) for the third time in four seasons in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. Cy-Hawk rivalry game (ESPN) at Kinnick Stadium.
“I think it’s amazing,” said West, who Monday was added to the Paul Hornung Award watch list, named to the Hornung week two honor roll and designated the College Football Performance Award punt returner of the week. “I think that was one of the most amazing things — seeing my quarterback in the end zone when he’s not even involved in the play. That connection there shows you the type of person he is and the type of relationship (we) have on and off the field.”
West now ranks second nationally in yards per punt return at 29.3.
He’s one of four Cyclones ever to score both after fielding a punt and a kickoff.
As for his passer rating?
A cool 336.8 — admittedly with a small (1-for-2; he threw an incomplete pass as a redshirt freshman) sample size.
“I don’t really recall any passes better than that one,” West said of his in-stride hoist to Lazard. “That was probably one of the best passes I’ve thrown.”
West also threw the ball at times while starring for Gibbs (St. Petersburg, Fla.) High School as primarily a running back.
He emerged as a Jarvis-of-all-trades, though, who kept defenses guessing and often backpedaling.
“They expected me to run the ball,” West said of those halcyon days, which included a combined five return touchdowns his junior season. “I’d do my best little Tim Tebow impression. I’d step up and throw it as far as I can. They guy would be pretty much open.”
West’s asked to do a lot now, too, but not too much.
He’ll often be in a position to make game-changing plays on returns, but the passing game needs to tap diverse targets to augment its overall effectiveness.
“If you would have said, ‘Who’s your go-to receiver?’ Who’s it gonna be by the time the season ends?’ I think we all would have said Quenton Bundrage,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “Right now that shifts to Jarvis with the wide receiver position, but we still need better ball distribution than we (had) last week. (Dondre) Daley’s gotta be a part of every game. (D’Vario) Montgomery and (Tad) Ecby gotta be a part of every game. So if you’ve got that one guy you’re just locking on, they’re eventually going to take him away. They’re going to scheme him and personnel him and they’re going to take him away, so you’ve got to be able to keep everybody involved.”
West happily concedes as much.
He quietly touts what he calls his “little talents” — while allowing that he’s confident enough to believe every touch could lead to a “home run.”
“Yeah,” West said when asked about his slugging potential. “As much as possible, but whatever happens, happens. I’m comfortable enough to say I can make little plays when they’re available.”