Lenz In The Lead This Fall
AMES, Iowa - Josh Lenz is the Iowa State football team's top returning wide receiver heading into the 2012 football season, having racked up 510 receiving yards on 39 catches a year ago. Lenz's junior season was nearly ended prematurely when he suffered a sprained knee against No. 2 Oklahoma State that kept him from being at his best for the balance of this season.
"Josh will be a leader for us but more than that we need him to be a playmaker," Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said. "For us to have a good season, we need Josh to step up and play at the all-conference level. There is no doubt about that."
November 18, 2011 is a memorable date for any Cyclone fan, but Lenz remembers it both for how he sustained his injury against Oklahoma State as well as for how he watched his Cyclone teammates pull off the biggest win in school history. Lenz had two catches for 30 yards on Iowa State's second drive of the game. It was after catching the ball for a nine-yard gain, that the Cyclone's season threw him a curve.
"I made the catch and I caught it low and then it must have been the way he just dragged me down," Lenz said of the play on which he was injured. "I watched it on film and it doesn't look like I twisted it, I just kind of bent it. It bent back weird and it was kind of just a freak accident type of thing."
After having received medical treatment it had been made clear that Lenz could not return to action. He was able to watch the end of the game with Cyclone strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight.
"I was watching with (McKnight) and it was just insane, it was a great game but it hurt not being able to be out there for the end of it," Lenz said.
There was no denying that Lenz's injury had an impact on Iowa State's last three games.
"I was standing with (Oklahoma head) coach (Bob) Stoops in the pre-game of our contest down in Norman (Okla.)," Rhoads said. "He remarked how Josh's absence made an impact on our team. Josh had the fortitude to play in the last two games, including the Pinstripe Bowl, but it was obvious that he was not 100 percent."
With the injury to Lenz, the Cyclones had to go without their second-leading receiver for the following week at Oklahoma. The Dubuque native continued to rehab his knee. Even in the days leading up to the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl, there was doubt about whether Lenz would be able to play against Rutgers in Yankee Stadium.
"There were ups and downs and some days it would hurt so bad that I wouldn't be able to run on it and other days it would feel good," Lenz said. "I just lucked out and it felt good for the bowl game so I was able to play, but even then it wasn't 100 percent."
Lenz led the Cyclones in receiving in the 27-13 loss to Rutgers, with 72 yards on four receptions in the game. He enters his senior season with the most experience of the Cyclones' talented, young receiving corps, he wants to take on a leadership role in his final season at Iowa State.
"I want to lead this team and help do whatever I can to win games and we've still got a long ways to go before that, but I just want to try to be a leader out here during spring ball," Lenz said.
Lenz will start the 2012 season with 73 catches for 866 yards and four touchdowns. Memorable is his brilliant grab in the end zone from quarterback Austen Arnaud that helped Iowa State claim a 28-21 win at No. 22 Texas in 2010. The call by Bill Land of Fox Sports Net:
"Arnaud, going for six, in the end zone...TOUCHDOWN IOWA STATE...amazing catch by Lenz...WOW!
His kick returner work has been exemplary. Lenz has averaged 23.1 yards on 38 kickoff returns. He has averaged 6.7 yards on 46 punt returns. Who could forget his 62-yard punt return against Kansas in 2010? It was called on radio by the voice of the Cyclones, John Walters:
"Rojas hits it shorter this time, Lenz running to his right able to catch it ... on the run, made a man miss at the 42...he's to the 45, breaks another tackle ... Lenz around the near side...got a block..50, 45, 40, inside Kansas territory ... down the sideline to the 20 to the 10 TOUCHDOWN!!! ... Josh Lenz...an incredible punt return."
Lenz' contributions to last year's bowl season started in the first game Sept. 3 vs. Northern Iowa. UNI led Iowa State 13-7 with 5:37 left in the game. Facing a 4th-and-10 at the 26-yard line, Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz got flushed out of the pocket and was running out of room on the sideline. Jantz fired a scrambling toss to a sliding Lenz in the corner of the end zone to make it 14-13 Iowa State. Lenz had not given up on the play.
Walters had the call:
"There's the snap, another blitz coming...Jantz scrambling, in trouble...rolling to his right and keeping the play alive...he throws hit downfield to the endzone...LENZ MADE THE CATCH TOUCHDOWN!"
Iowa State won the game 20-19.
"Josh is a playmaker, that is what he does," said Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz.
Rhoads believes in Lenz. He wants even more of No. 19 on the field this fall.