Sep 2, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Jacob Park (10) throws a pass against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — ISU quarterback Jacob Park told a handful of reporters on media day that he’s trying to emulate Aaron Rodgers, but used to be more like Tim Tebow.
Fair enough, but offensive coordinator Tom Manning drew a different comparison in terms of his junior quarterback’s development.
“He probably used to be more like Brett Favre,” Manning said of Park, who will make his first Cy-Hawk rivalry start Saturday at 11 a.m. against Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium. “That’s probably a better way to go, but, no, Jacob’s doing a really good job. It’s been fun to watch him mature into understanding how important his process is.
“Obviously, coach (Matt) Campbell is so big on those kind of things and just watching him really get involved in the game plan and really understand and tell you when he doesn’t like something, or when he really likes something — I think that when a quarterback really feels like they’re involved, and when his opinions really matter, I think you see a lot of improvement, because the buy-in value becomes really high. And I think Jacob right now is really understanding why we’re doing the things we’re doing and how we’re trying to attack maybe a particular defense. It has really helped him grow.”
Park spun spirals to his second-best completion rate as a starter — 77.1 — in last week’s season-opening 42-24 win over Northern Iowa. His previous best as the No. 1 QB? 77.8 percent, on 14 of 18 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns in last November’s 66-10 shellacking of Texas Tech.
Park’s thrown at last two touchdown passes in five of the past six games.
“I think we saw that there were some really, really good decisions that he made (Saturday) and a lot of really good decisions not to throw the football that I think maybe a year ago, maybe he wouldn’t have made,” Manning said. “I think his preparation has improved so much and I think that was going to be a natural (result) of it, but the point of emphasis that he’s taken in in studying and really understanding what we’re trying to do and why we’re trying to do it — I think it’s helped him tremendously, and I think we saw some really good decisions being made.”
Campbell lauded former (and still occasional) quarterback Joel Lanning’s debut at linebacker on Saturday — a sentiment defensive coordinator Jon Heacock concurred with Tuesday.
Lanning’s pursuit and hit on UNI quarterback Eli Dunne helped set up Willie Harvey’s pick-six against the Panthers. He finished with seven tackles — tied for second on the team.
““I think he did a good job,” Heacock said. “Played pretty well, actually, to be honesty with you, in his first game under the lights in front of all those folks. I just thought he handled himself really well.”
Lanning said after the game he wasn’t sure how well he’d played. But how’d he grade out?
“Film’s always one of those deals were it’s never as bad as it seems, but it’s never as good as it seems either,” Lanning said Tuesday. “I graded out at 79. To grade out at what they want is like an 84 or 85. So, I was close. I had a few mistakes. Obviously it was my first game. No excuses, really, there. I’m just going to continue to get better as it goes.”
JOB ONE: SLOW WADLEY
Unsurprisingly, Heacock described Iowa’s top running back, Akrum Wadley, in glowing terms.
The senior from Newark, N.J., rushed 24 times for 116 yards in the Hawkeyes’ season-opening 24-3 win over Wyoming. He’s run for 1,879 yards and 18 touchdowns in his Iowa career — and must be contained on Saturday.
“He’s got tremendous feet,” Heacock said. “His feet are incredible. He can make you miss in a second, cut on a dime, and then has great speed to go with it. So he can make you miss in the open field and has got some speed to go with it for sure.”