AMES — Iowa State senior quarterback Kyle Kempt’s first career start produced the biggest upset in school history.
Kempt might not be headed back to the bench anytime soon.
Kempt and junior Jacob Park, who had started the previous four games before missing last week’s stunning 38-31 win at then-No. 3 Oklahoma for undisclosed personal medical reasons, are listed as co-starters for Saturday’s game against Kansas (1-4, 0-2).
Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said Monday that Park’s status is “day to day.”
“Once there’s news to address, we’ll address it,” Campbell said. “Is he still a member of our team? Yes. Is he still around us? Yes. Any more than that, I don’t think it’s fair to him or anybody else.”
Kempt showed last week that the Cyclones (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) might not be in bad shape if he’s behind center— even though he hadn’t taken more than a few meaningful snaps in five years.
Kempt chose Oregon State after throwing for 3,056 yards and 32 TDs as a senior for Massillon Washington High in Ohio in 2012. But he couldn’t break through after two years with the Beavers and transferred to Hutchinson Community College, where he didn’t play.
Kempt then walked on at Iowa State in part because of his relationship with Campbell, a former coach at Toledo. Kempt was named the Cyclones’ offensive scout team player of the year in 2016. But the emergence of Park midway through last season made it appear as though Kempt would graduate from college without ever starting.
Kempt rewarded Iowa State’s faith in him last week.
Kempt finished 18-of-24 passing for 343 yards against the Sooners with three touchdown passes in the second half. He also tossed the game-winning TD to Allen Lazard with 2:19 left and was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the week.
“Even though he wasn’t the starter (he’d ask), ‘How do I get a chance, coach, to be the guy? What do I do to get better?’ “ Campbell said. “He’s always attacked that, and that’s what allowed us to have such confidence to say that that’s the guy. He’s going to do everything we need him to do to at least have a chance to be successful.”
Should Park be unavailable against the Jayhawks, the Cyclones might also turn to linebacker Joel Lanning for a few snaps at quarterback.
Iowa State had largely stayed away from using Lanning, who spent a year and a half as the starting quarterback, on both sides of the ball even though it had mentioned such a plan was possible. But without knowing what they were going to get out of Kempt, the Cyclones had Lanning run the ball nine times and throw three passes, completing two for 25 yards.
Now that Kempt has shown what he can give Iowa State, the Cyclones will likely look to limit most of Lanning’s plays to defense.
Lanning has proven he belongs on that side of the ball with eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery against the Sooners.
“You’ve got to be really smart. And I don’t think we were overbearing in that aspect of it this past week. I think that was my fear in doing it any earlier,” Campbell said. “What you’re seeing is a really confident guy on defense.”