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Iowa State backup QB sparkles in debut

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State spent nearly all season rotating two quarterbacks before finally turning to option No. 3 last weekend.

Third-stringer Sam Richardson responded with a brilliant night at Kansas.

Richardson, a redshirt freshman without a college throw to his name, completed 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns as Iowa State (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) beat Kansas 51-23 and earned bowl eligibility.

Richardson got his chance after starter Steele Jantz suffered a head injury in the first quarter. Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads won't announce whether Jantz or Richardson will start the regular-season finale Friday against West Virginia (5-5, 2-5), but Richardson certainly left an indelible impression in his debut.

Rhoads did acknowledge Monday that Richardson has the edge for job.

"It's a great feeling. Obviously it's something that I came here to do,'' Richardson said.

For two years, Rhoads has shuffled between Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett. Richardson, a 6-foot-2 native of Winter Park, Fla., who turned down offers from North Carolina State, Wake Forest and others, was never really in the mix this year - until Saturday.

"You watch a performance like that and the burning question is, `Why haven't you put him in sooner?'' Rhoads said. "Obviously he hasn't given us that kind of performance in practice or we would have given him an opportunity.''

Jantz opened the season as the starter, but his occasionally brilliant moments were again overshadowed by inconsistency. Barnett took over but couldn't last three games before the Cyclones went back to Jantz.

Iowa State scored 27 points in back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Texas. The offense was sputtering against the woeful Jayhawks when Richardson came in.

"You've got to do everything you know you're not that great at. You've got to work on it all the time. Like, I've been in the weight room all season long,'' Richardson said. "You have to always be ready for an opportunity, and when it comes you've got to seize it.''

Richardson might not have the strongest arm. Yet he was incredibly accurate against the Jayhawks, throwing for as many touchdowns as incompletions and helping the Cyclones score 28 points in the second quarter alone to put the game out of reach.

Richardson might not have the quickest feet of any of the Cyclones quarterbacks, either, but he also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown - just enough for the defense to respect his ability to beat them with his legs.

Rhoads also said that Richardson has the right temperament for the job.

"He is what you saw on the field [last] Saturday night. He is a composed, poised, almost non-assertive young man with a very easygoing personality that's easy to like,'' Rhoads said.

As Rhoads winds down his fourth season at Iowa State, it's become clear that the Cyclones are much deeper than they used to be.

But the one position that's kept Iowa State from rising to the top of the Big 12 - like Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and others have in seasons past - is a star quarterback.

No one is saying that Richardson will be that guy, especially not after just three quarters of evidence. But it was an encouraging debut.

"It gives you, a glimpse, an eye of what he's capable of under the lights,'' Rhoads said.

 


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