Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads acknowledged Monday that he expects senior quarterback Austen Arnaud to start the Big 12 home opener against Texas Tech this weekend.
Arnaud aggravated an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter of last week's 27-0 win over Northern Iowa and was replaced by sophomore backup Jerome Tiller.
Arnaud went through a full practice on Sunday, according to Rhoads, and was listed as the starter on a depth chart released Monday.
"I anticipate that Austen will be out there with the first team when we take the field. Jerome did a nice job leading of leading our team to victory, and I don't look past that," Rhoads said. "Does that mean both will play? Does that mean I'll split time? That's what I don't know."
Arnaud fell hard on his shoulder during the third quarter of a 27-20 loss to Kansas State on Sept. 18. The three-year starter returned after missing just one series against the Wildcats, and he insisted during the week before the Northern Iowa game that he'd be fine.
On the first series against the Panthers, though, Arnaud got popped on his injured shoulder and couldn't continue. Tiller, a sophomore, was 11 of 22 passing in relief and could play against Texas Tech (2-1, 0-1 Big 12).
"Whoever is taking the center snaps needs to be making accurate throws and good decisions on the field," Rhoads said.
That's been a problem for both of Iowa State's quarterbacks.
Iowa State (2-2, 0-1) ranks 97th in the nation with just 169.3 passing yards a game, which is a major reason why the Cyclones are last in the Big 12 with just over 20 points a game.
Arnaud got off to a shaky start, which included five interceptions and just two TD passes in three games. But even though Tiller was behind center for the win over the Panthers, he didn't exactly light up the scoreboard.
Tiller, who got into seven games as a freshman in 2009 and completed 56.2 percent of his passes, had just 87 yards passing against Northern Iowa and was sacked four times. The Cyclones offense managed just one touchdown and a pair of field goals, and many of the 11 balls Tiller managed to complete were a lot tougher than they needed to be.
"Health is what put us in this situation," Rhoads said. "It's not like Jerome went out there and looked like Terry Bradshaw and completed every pass and led us to 50 points."
Instead, it was Iowa State's defense that led the way, forcing five Northern Iowa turnovers and returning two interceptions for scores in registering its first shutout since 2004. Sophomore linebacker Jake Knott had 11 tackles and his third pick of the season, earning Big 12 defensive player of the week honors.
Still, Iowa State was outgained 320-210 by the FCS Panthers.
Arnaud wasn't made available to reporters Monday because of an academic conflict, according to Iowa State spokesman Tom Kroeschell. But even though Arnaud hasn't played that well this season, he still looks like the best option as long as he's healthy.
According to Rhoads, Arnaud's shoulder isn't limiting him as much as it did a week ago.
"Austen's been out there, he's played a lot of games in this conference," running back Alexander Robinson said. "That experience, what you're going to see on game night, the speed of it, I think that's big. That really helps you out a lot. That's something that you can't replace."