AMES – When Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland misses a throw in practice, he gets angry.
Offensive coordinator Tom Manning loves that about him.
He believes it’s the reason Noland had success against Oklahoma State. It’s the reason he’s in position to have success against Baylor on Saturday when Iowa State travels to Waco for the game at 1:30.
“Zeb reminds me of what coaching myself would be when I was 20 years old, which is kind of fun,” Manning said. “There’s not a throw he doesn’t think he can make and he’s usually pretty pissed off, which I really like because he’s so competitive. He’s hard headed and I like that. He’s fun to coach because if that ball’s not perfect, he’s mad. Doesn’t matter what you say, he’s mad.”
In high school, Noland tried to have a perfect completion percentage and if he missed a throw he’d get so mad that it affected the rest of his day. Now, with Manning’s help, he’s able to brush it off and laugh at it if he doesn’t make a throw.
Fellow quarterback Kyle Kempt also helped him.
“I just sat back and watched Kyle and Kyle is about as emotionless as they come so watching him, it really helped me because he had a ton of success staying as calm as he did and staying as even keeled as he did,” Noland said.
Kempt left last Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Coach Matt Campbell said Kempt and Noland were splitting practice reps this week, but Kempt’s shoulder was still bothering him. While Kempt may not start, at the very least he’ll be available if need be.
“I would have every inclination that Zeb would do well,” Manning said. “He’s worked hard for a long time, and I think that in football it’s the equity that you built and just starting to work this week isn’t good enough. The reason he was successful when he came in the football game is No. 1 he knew what to do, which proves that we worked really hard for a long time.
“And then he made some throws that weren’t easy throws which shows that he’s been working at it and that he was waiting for his opportunity to shine and certainly did so.”
Noland was an early enrollee to Iowa State, arriving January of 2016. He only had a 20-day window between when he committed to Iowa State and when he enrolled.
Unfortunately, Noland tore his ACL during spring practice. It was an arduous path for Noland getting back to full health. He had three separate surgeries on his knee. The first was to repair the ACL and the second two were due to complications, including one to clean up the meniscus.
Noland didn’t get back on the field until August.
“It really just helped me because every plateau was a challenge,” Noland said. “It wasn’t like I was just doing the same thing – I was hitting adversity. I’m better now than I ever was in both legs.”
Watching Kempt get the starting nod when Jacob Park left the team wasn’t hard for Noland.
“At the time, he was practicing better than me and he was doing better than me,” Noland said. “It was the best decision [Campbell] made for me and I’m very thankful for it because I knew at some point my time was going to come, whether it was now or my senior year, whenever it may have been I knew that him letting me sit back and watch Kyle grow as a quarterback was the best decision for me.”
Campbell appreciated the way Noland handled the situation.
“When Kyle stepped in his role, I think I saw the greatest maturity out of Zeb Noland,” Campbell said. “I think easily he could’ve been really upset that he wasn’t going to be the guy. Instead, you saw that growth from being a young freshman to being a guy that said, ‘Hey listen, my time’s coming, and maybe I’m not ready yet, but I better get better.’ You saw his growth in practice at an astronomical rate.”
Now, he’s in position to get the starting nod against Baylor.