Sep 24, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Allen Lazard (5) catches a touchdown pass while defended by San Jose State Spartans cornerback Andre Chachere (21) during the game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — ISU co-quarterbacks Joel Lanning and Jacob Park sat next to each other on the bench, watching as third-string Kyle Kempt put the finishing touches on an intensely satisfying 44-10 win Saturday over San Jose State.
Then passing game coordinator Jim Hofher leaned in to pose a question.
“Coach Hof came over to us and said, ‘You ever seen the WWE?’” Lanning said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, we have a tag team going on here.’ That’s good to see.”
Better than good — at least on Saturday as the Cyclones (1-3) delivered the long-awaited first win of the Matt Campbell era at Jack Trice Stadium.
“We’ve got the same goal,” said Park, who threw three of ISU’s five touchdown passes against the outmanned Spartans (1-3). “We want to win games. We’re both competitors. We’re both quarterbacks, but at the end of the day, friends are longer than football. Me and him have become good friends and I think it’s a good example to set for the team, when me and him are probably in the toughest competition on the team right now and to show that me and him are close and me and him are friends kind of brings the team together.”
Park dazzled by completing 15 of 19 passes for 165 yards and the touchdown strikes to Dondre Daley, Deshaunte Jones and Trever Ryen.
Lanning connected on 5 of 8 throws for 136 yards and two scores — one to Jones, and one to Allen Lazard, who deftly tip-toed the sideline for a spectacular grab to make the score 7-0.
So a tag team it is, for the foreseeable future, anyway.
“After I don’t know if it was one of my touchdowns or one of his touchdowns, we were sitting on the bench and (Park) said to me, he’s like, ‘Hey, man, I wouldn’t want to be sharing a rotation with anyone else except for you,’” Lanning said. “That’s saying a lot. Just where we’re at as a duo — and we’re close. It’s how it’s got to be. If we’re both going to play, we’ve both got to be on the same page with our offense. I don’t see anything changing honestly. We’re going to keep rotating.”
“Efficient” is the word Campbell used six times in his first seven sentences of assessing his quarterbacks’ play, and apparently that quality can be infectious.
Both missed some throws, but both also combined for five touchdowns — the most for the Cyclones since Steele Jantz torched Baylor for the same number four seasons ago in a 35-20 triumph.
“I was probably at that game,” Lanning said.
But the legendary Jantz needed 52 attempts for those five touchdowns. Park and Lanning required just 27 throws while ISU rolled up 500-plus yards of offense for the first time since last season’s 38-13 Kansas win.
“I think at the end of it, it was efficient, right?” noted Campbell, who bequeathed the game ball to offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “That’s the thing we have to be to have success is efficient. I thought both guys were extremely efficient. I don’t even know what our numbers are, 22-of-29, it looks like. I think the reality of that is we were efficient. You see us positive on third down. The offenses that I’ve been apart of that have been really successful were efficient. (They) were efficient in situational football, were efficient on third down. We have not been that, but we certainly were today. I think a little bit of that credit has to go to the offensive line. The protection was really good. That’s a team that’s created a bunch of turnovers and, certainly, had a bunch of tackles for losses and sacks. I thought those guys were able to protect well today, as well.
Neither quarterback endured a sack. Not even close. That’s a bravura effort from a patchwork line that allowed 11 sacks in the first three games.
“Today is the best I’ve felt after a game,” Lanning said. “I only ran the ball one time and didn’t get touched when I was sitting in the pocket. You can’t ask for a better day quarterback-wise. And I don’t think Jacob got touched, really, either.”
No he didn’t — and he wasn’t about to when he busted loose for a 35-yard jaunt that ended safely on the sideline.
Two plays later Park found Daley for a 13-yard touchdown that made the score 23-3 late in the second quarter.
“I haven’t been in open field like that since high school, dude,” Park said. “All I was thinking was, ‘Don’t fumble the ball.’ I got gassed a little bit there at the end. Saw white jerseys flashing and decided to take it out of bounds.”
For good reason.
“He actually came off the field and said he ran out of bounds because he wanted to get (another) passing touchdown,” Lanning said. “And he ended up getting (it).”
The Cyclones, meanwhile, finally dented the win column.
Yes, it’s only San Jose State.
Yes, No. 16 Baylor looms at 11 a.m. next week.
But positives proliferated all day Saturday — threading through the defense’s four interceptions and goal line stand, to Mike Warren’s first 100-yard game of the season, to the tag team’s symbiotic performance.
“These past couple weeks we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and we have to continue to keep growing as a team,” said Warren, who rushed for 103 yards and his first touchdown of the season. “The first couple weeks we weren’t playing as a team. Now that we’re playing together, it’s starting to show and we’re all starting to fight for each other.”
Just like Lanning and Park: ISU’s dart-throwing tandem, er, tag team.
“We’re excited, man,” Park said. “It’s the start of a new beginning now. We’re about to keep this thing rolling.”