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Why can’t Matt Campbell let rotating-QB system go?

There’s stubborn, and then there’s just foolish. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell may quickly be crossing that line.

Iowa State nearly pulled off its biggest upset since Oklahoma State in 2011. The Cyclones had #13 Baylor on the ropes all afternoon, before the Bears put together a dominant fourth quarter and pulled off a 45-42 win in Ames.

But, it was the Iowa State offense that left Cyclones fans feeling good about the afternoon. All season long, Matt Campbell has spent time rotating between Joel Lanning and Jacob Park at quarterback. Neither player really separated from his competition, until Saturday. The rotating quarterbacks was put on hold for an afternoon as Joel Lanning had a career day. The junior signal caller threw for a career-high 261 yards on 17 of 23 passing and two touchdowns, while running for 57 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback helped lead Iowa State to touchdown drives on six of its first seven possessions.

So, what does Matt Campbell decide on Monday? That he’s going to stick with the rotation at quarterback this Saturday at Oklahoma State. 

“We believe in both those guys, and I still think you’re going to see plenty of Jacob Park,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said Monday. “I think Joel and Jacob both know that, and I think that’s a credit to Joel. Joel played at a really high rate and was playing really good football almost the entire day.”

The problem for Lanning is that he’s not Campbell’s guy and Park is. Sometime it’s as political, and as simple, as that.

Park was a Top-100 recruit coming out of high school. He enrolled early at Georgia in 2014, things didn’t work out, and he left the program and the university in 2015. Park went home and took a season off attending Trident Technical College. The QB had some options to transfer and play at a Power 5 school, but things fell through. So, Park was preparing to play at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M this fall until the Cyclones came calling. According to 247 sports, Cyclones assistant Alex Golesh got the wheels moving and Park said his first conversation with head coach Matt Campbell the first Friday before the dead period in December sealed the deal.

If you want to know why Park is getting every chance imaginable, despite not looking all that polished, and being outplayed by Joel Lanning, there’s your answer.

For the record, I remain a huge fan of Matt Campbell, and believe if anyone can turn Iowa State into a respectable program, it’s him. But, he was simply wrong to come out this week and say that there is still a quarterback battle going on. What more does Joel Lanning need to do? The numbers between the two quarterback’s aren’t close.

Joel Lanning6010086660.08.6673149.8
Jacob Park284933457.16.8230134.6

Yes, Lanning has had more opportunities, but in the three Iowa State games I’ve watched (Iowa, TCU, Baylor), Lanning has looked like the more complete, and more confident player. On the ground, Park is averaging 5.6 YPC, but of his 10 carries for 56 yards, one of those rushes is for 35 yards. Meantime, Lanning has run the ball 50 times for 124 yards, with three rushing touchdowns (zero for Park).

Kudos to Lanning, who took the high road this week, saying, “It kind of goes to show, like last Saturday, whoever’s in the game and has momentum going and is playing good, they’re just going to keep them in and let them go.”

But, continuing to play this back-and-forth game at quarterback sets a bad precedent in the locker room. What does a player need to do to win a starting job? If being the clear-cut winner of the competition, capped off by a career day against a top-15 team, isn’t enough, what is? I respect Campbell’s loyalty to one of his guys, but if it comes at the detriment of another player who’s worked hard and busted his hump to succeed, that’s wrong.

“When you have two guys playing, you’ve got to go with your gut sometimes,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to kind of keep the flow of the game going. It’s never perfect and it’s never right but (we) try to do what’s right by the football team at the end of the day.”

Well, Joel Lanning is clearly “what’s right” for this Iowa State football team right now. Question is: when will coach Campbell admit that?

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