Kyle Kempt is still Iowa State’s starting quarterback, despite what the depth chart says (and doesn’t say).
AMES, Ia. — Is Tom Manning still in over his head?
Is anyone still questioning his performance as a Power Five offensive coordinator?
I can’t hear you.
The same Iowa State offensive coordinator who was taken to the cleaners for not calling enough running plays for David Montgomery during a loss against Texas called a near-perfect game against Oklahoma on Saturday.
It’s not like rookie quarterback Kyle Kempt made up all those plays at the line of scrimmage.
Manning suggested the winning sequence, including Kempt’s clinching touchdown pass to Allen Lazard, instead of going conservative and settling for a field goal to break a 31-all game.
While others would have taken a knee to run out the clock at the end of the first half, Manning’s guys kept grinding.
Of the 17 Cyclones games for which Manning has called plays, his best was during the biggest win in the school’s football history.
Out of his league?
I still can’t hear you.
“In all honesty, I don’t pay attention,” Manning said of criticism sometimes hurled his way.
And — in all honesty — he’s fibbing.
He got emails after the Texas game, some critical that the electric Montgomery got just nine carries.
“Some fans weren’t real happy,” he said. “It’s part of the deal. It’s just like if I watch a game on TV and there’s a call where I’m like, ‘What are they doing?’
“I understand that fans are fans. I understand the love, and that they’re passionate about their team -— and they should be.
“They have a voice, and I understand it. At the end of the day, it’s trying to do the best we can to put our kids in position to win.”
That effort was never more evident than on Saturday.
Winning possession: Go for broke
Iowa State didn’t play conservatively when reaching the Oklahoma 28-yard line with just more than 3 minutes to play in a 31-all game.
The offense could have run a few safe rushing plays, kept the ball in the middle of the field and settled for Garrett Owens’ fourth field goal. The result would have meant a three-point lead against one of the nation’s most potent offenses led by one of the nation’s finest quarterbacks.
On third-and-7 at the OU 25, Kempt threw that pass into the corner of the end zone that Lazard never drops.
Touchdown, Cyclones, with 2:19 to play.
“We felt like we were moving the ball down to get into field goal position,” Manning said. “We kind of battled back and forth on what we were going to get on third down.”
Coaches correctly predicted that the Sooners would pressure Kempt more than he’d ever been pressured. They correctly predicted that would put Lazard in one of those jump-ball situations on which he thrives.
“We guessed right,” Manning said. “We had a chance to get the ball on the outside to Lazard — or in the middle to David.
“Really, it was Kyle. Kyle threw a great ball.”
Really, it was Manning who called the play.
End of the first half: Take a knee? Whatever.
How many coaches would have taken the easy route when Iowa State got the ball at its 31-yard line with 26 seconds to play in the half, and down by 14 points?
I’ll help you: Most, but not Manning.
On first down, Kempt whistled a pass to Hakeem Butler, the result a 54-yard play to the Sooners’ 15.
Kudos to Manning; the Cyclones could have just run out the clock. Not on this day.
“We had a hunch they’d be in a coverage that we had one play for,” Manning said. “We figured if we didn’t get it, then it’d be at least a long foul ball that wouldn’t affect us.
“If we didn’t connect, we’d run a safe play and take a knee if we had to.”
“We took a shot,” Manning continued. “To win games, you have to be willing to take a chance. Especially in a road game and in an environment like we were in — we felt like we had to do it.”
That go-for-broke drive ended with Owens’ 32-yard field goal and enough momentum that the Cyclones remarkably scored on their next four possessions.
On plays that, ahem, were called by Tom Manning.
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Manning could have remained in his less stressful prior life. Things were good back when he was a sixth-grade social studies teacher and coach.
“Our college coach always told us that coaching is teaching, and that teaching is the ability to inspire learning,’ Manning said. “There’s no secret why there’s a lot of coaches that were trained to be teachers.”
Manning chose another stressful vocation. He chose one where a mistake is almost always a bad play call, not bad players running the play. He chose one where it’s always too much predictability, not outstanding defense by an opponent.
“The criticism — it’s part of the job,” Manning said. “That’s what makes Iowa State really special.
“People really care, and that’s special.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at email@example.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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