Noland ready to make the most of his opportunity at ISU
AMES (AP) — Zeb Noland always understood his responsibility as Iowa State’s backup quarterback.
Be prepared, because you never when you’ll become the starter.
It has happened to Noland twice and he has responded both times, most recently with a career-best performance in the Cyclones’ 37-27 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma last Saturday. He has kept the starting job this week as Iowa State prepares for Saturday’s home game with Akron.
“I think if you watch football long enough you realize as a backup quarterback your time may come,” Noland said Tuesday. “It doesn’t really matter what level of football you’re at, if you continue to tell yourself to be ready and always prepare like you’re going to be ready, most of the time when you get your shot you’re going to be ready.”
He certainly was ready against the Sooners, completing 25 of 36 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns, both to Hakeem Butler on plays covering 51 and 57 yards. Noland played with poise, threw accurate, catchable passes and looked as though he had command of the offense.
It helped having a full week to prepare as the starter. He was thrown into the fray in the previous game, a 13-3 loss at Iowa, after starter Kyle Kempt injured his left knee late in the third quarter.
“At Iowa, as the backup, you sit there every single play thinking the next play could be my play,” he said. “And this week, it was my play. Every play was my play. You’ve just got to take it one snap at a time whether you’re thrown in there at the very end of the game to make a Hail Mary pass or if you’re at the first play of the game and you’ve got to just do your job.”
As a freshman last year, Noland was rushed into a Nov. 11 game against Oklahoma State after Kempt injured a shoulder. He started the next game, a 23-13 victory over Baylor, then returned to his backup role the following week because Kempt was healthy enough to play.
Kempt became the starter last year when Jacob Park left the team after starting the first four games and made a memorable debut in an upset victory at Oklahoma, throwing for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Noland would have been in line for the starting job this season until Kempt was granted a sixth year of eligibility.
It has been a relief for coach Matt Campbell that both were ready when their number was called.
“I think it’s such a big lesson for all of our players, not only at quarterback, especially because you don’t rotate guys for the most part, but for all of our guys,” Campbell said. “When that opportunity comes along and you get your shot at it, are you going to take advantage of it? Obviously Kyle doing that a year ago and Zeb doing that this past Saturday I think has shown that our kids are really starting to buy into that belief and understanding that value.”
Had Kempt not been injured last year, Noland likely would have seen little more than mop-up duty. The experience he ended up gaining was invaluable, he said.
“The game’s really fast,” he said. “You can try to imitate it in practice as much as you can, but when the live bullets are coming and they aren’t just running by you and tagging you on the shoulder as a sack, that’s a whole lot different than those guys running right at you and having the offensive line actually retreating toward you and not just going around you,” he said.
“You see a coverage in practice against the scout team, it looks totally different sometimes when you’re playing against the actual guys that are out there.”