Oct 7, 2017; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) passes the ball over the Oklahoma Sooners defensive line during the third quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Suddenly-starting Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt is often described as calm. Also, quiet.
Those are obviously good traits to have when you slide into the starter’s role as he did last week. But what was his emotional state like when he sized up the Oklahoma defense and delivered a perfect third and seven pass to Allen Lazard that proved to be the game-winner in Norman?
Any nerves show up there? Not. A. One.
“Guys weren’t really thinking about, ‘We have to score on this drive,’” Kempt said this week after helping the Cyclones stun the Sooners 38-31. “It was really, you know, ‘We have to execute the first play, then the second play.’ Then we get in the position where I’m not even thinking about, ‘This is the game-winning throw.’ I’m thinking about, ‘Hey, let’s execute this play,’ and we ended up scoring.”
Kempt had several options on that fateful throw that set the stage for the defense’s big stand against OU’s star quarterback, Baker Mayfield. He chose to connect with the record-setting Lazard — even as a safety rolled in to effectively form a double-team in the end zone.
“Holy bad word, probably,” offensive coordinator Tom Manning said of his immediate reaction to Kempt’s bold and precise throw. “You know. That’s about it. Like, ‘Oh my gosh? What did he just do? That’s pretty awesome.’ But we felt like he was going to throw that ball and that’s a ball he throws pretty good. It was like, ‘Did he catch it or didn’t he catch it?’ Once we realized that he caught it, we were pretty fired up.”
Oh, he caught it all right. It was ESPN SportsCenter’s top plays of the day — and also received the “Titanic” treatment on Twitter.
HUGE UPSET IN NORMAN!!!
ALLEN LAZARD’S GO AHEAD TOUCHDOWN IS EVEN BETTER WITH TITANIC MUSIC! IOWA STATE (@CYCLONEFB) STUNS OKLAHOMA!
— 🚢Titanic TD🏈 (@TitanicTD) October 7, 2017
“It was a great throw,” Lazard said. “Kyle just put it up there. I was able to get a good release off the line and be able to stack my defender, even though they were one-high and he probably even shouldn’t have thrown me the ball because the safety rolled over there, but he just put the ball in a great spot for me to go high point it and make a play.”
It’s unclear just how much longer Kempt will remain the starter, but one thing’s certain: He’ll be the same guy either way.
“He might be the calmest person I’ve ever met in my life,” tailback David Montgomery said. “When things go tough, he’s calm. When I’m wild, he’s calm. When I’m calm, he’s calm. So sometimes I don’t know how to handle him. Sometimes I think he’s not there — and he’s the quarterback, so him just being calm is something we definitely enjoy.”
Especially when Kempt finally hit the big stage, after so many seasons of working behind the scenes biding his time.
“Just my whole life I’ve prepared for situations like (that),” Kempt said. “To be honest, I was probably more nervous in high school and even in practice. It was a little surreal being that calm in the game, but it was a good feeling, though.”
Montgomery pointedly said he and the rest of the Cyclones (3-2, 1-1) won’t overlook the Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2).
“Nah, we’ve got no room to breathe,” said Montgomery, who’s totaled 613 all-purpose yards and rushed for five touchdowns this season. “It’s week to week. Once you breathe, that’s when they jump on you. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the same way every time. Ain’t no change to this week just because we won (at OU).”
“Five years of camp is a grind, but this last one, you’re thinking, ‘Now this is the last one.’ Then the season’s coming around and you’re like, ‘Well, I’ve got 12 games.’ You really start appreciating practice. You appreciate the little things, like walking into the facility every day, like getting your laundry loop and stuff and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is going to be over soon.’ Then you go out and run onto Jack Trice for the games and it’s just like an adrenaline rush. You’re like, ‘I’ve got to give everything I have to make this last year special. This senior year.’ So far it’s been a pretty good start.” — defensive line reserve-turned-offensive line starter Robby Garcia