Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 18, 2018 at 10:57 pm.

Noland takes over at QB — for now

For whatever reason, Oklahoma appears to be a fine opponent for inexperienced Iowa State quarterbacks to burst onto the scene against

A year after Kyle Kempt stunned the college football world by leading the Cyclones to an upset of then-No. 3 OU, Zeb Noland did his best to accomplish the same feat a week ago. While Iowa State ultimately fell short, dropping a 37-27 decision, Noland starred in his second career start, completing 25-of-36 passes for 360 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Now, the Cyclones success may hinge on how Noland replicates Kempt’s progress on the learning curve.

With Kempt out for at least another week because of a knee injury suffered late in the loss to Iowa, Noland has another chance to stake his claim to the position. His effort against the Sooners showed both his strengths as a passer, and what he still needs to do to succeed in the Big 12.

The sophomore quarterback is shorter than Kempt and is listed at a pedestrian 6-foot-2, so he doesn’t have the pocket presence or the ability to see over the defense that Kempt does. But what he does have is a rocket arm. Both of his touchdown passes were bombs — a 51-yard strike to Hakeem Butler in the second quarter, and a 57-yard pass in the third. Indeed, three of Noland’s four touchdown passes have covered more than 50 yards.

Arm strength hasn’t been the issue; it’s accuracy, and the ability to move the team down the field when the deep ball is taken away. The Oklahoma game should quiet some of the skeptics; his 25 completions came all over the field, and eight different players caught at least one pass. His one interception came late in the game in the hurry-up offense, where he had to force the ball into traffic in an effort to make something happen.

Akron isn’t in the same category as Oklahoma, but the Zips won’t be an easy foe for the 0-2 Cyclones. Terry Bowden’s crew is coming off a road upset of Northwestern and has most of the key players back from the team that fell 41-14 to Iowa State a year ago. Motivation won’t be a problem for the Zips. Nor should it be for an Iowa State team that’s still searching for the first of the six wins it needs to become bowl-eligible.

Kempt is a sixth-year senior, so this will be Noland’s team in 2019 at the latest. His performance over the next week or two could decide whether he assumes that leadership role sooner rather than later.