AMES - Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz lost his starting job because the Cyclones never knew whether he'd be dynamic or a disaster.
On a night when the Cyclones desperately needed a spark, Jantz came through with one of the best performances in school history.
Jantz set career highs with 381 yards passing and five touchdowns and Iowa State held off visiting Baylor 35-21 to snap a two-game losing streak.
Jantz tied a school record for touchdown passes (5) and completions (36) for Iowa State (5-3, 2-3 Big 12), which moved within one win of bowl eligibility for the third time in four years.
"He's a physically gifted player. You never get to the point to say it for certain without looking at the film, but this very easily could have been his best overall game as an Iowa State Cyclone," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Jantz started for the first time since late September after losing the starting job to Jared Barnett because of ineffectiveness. Three of his touchdowns went to Jarvis West, whose 22-yard touchdown catch with 8:37 left made it 35-14 Cyclones.
Nick Florence threw for 426 yards and two touchdowns to lead Baylor (3-4, 0-4) which lost its fourth straight game.
The Bears offense gained 541 yards, and Terrance Williams had 13 catches for 190 yards. But for the second time in three weeks, Baylor was held to a season-low 21 points.
"We're beyond frustrated now. We're hurting now," Baylor defensive back Ahmad Dixon said. "We're all fighting, and that's where the hurt comes in - to come up short at the end."
Jantz, who threw for just 73 yards and three interceptions in a 24-13 loss to Texas Tech in his last start, wasn't without his flaws. He threw a bad interception near the goal line to start the second half and fumbled with just over two minutes left and the game essentially in hand.
But against a Baylor defense that entered play last in the nation with 44 points allowed per game, Jantz was everything the Cyclones thought he could be when they gave him the starting job in August.
Jantz directed a 14-play, 81-yard scoring drive midway through the third quarter, which he finished with an 8-yard floater to a wide-open Jeff Woody to make it 28-14.
Baylor was driving deep into Iowa State territory when replays showed that star lineman Cyril Richardson appeared to kick Iowa State's Brandon Jensen. The Bears were pushed back 15 yards and Richardson was tossed from the game. Iowa State eventually took over on downs.
Jantz capped a his comeback evening by rolling out of pressure and drilling West in the back of the end zone - perhaps his best throw on a night filled with good ones.
Jantz tied Austen Arnaud's school record with 36 completions on 52 attempts and Todd Bandhauer's five-touchdown performance against Texas in 1998.
Jantz wasn't made available to reporters after the game.
"His feet have been shaky and he's moved with pressure earlier in the year and he didn't (Saturday) night. He stuck in there," Rhoads said. "He had one coming right at his face and delivered a touchdown pass. I think that does a lot of a young man's confidence."
Rhoads started Jantz over Barnett, the starter for last week's 31-10 loss to Oklahoma State, after keeping it a secret all week.
Baylor went up 7-0 on Jarred Salubi's 2-yard run. But after a slow start, Jantz answered with an impressive 23-yard touchdown toss to West to tie it up just before the end of the first quarter.
A busted coverage by the Cyclones secondary led to Florence's 49-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Reese- but Iowa State Albert Gary rolled over a Baylor defender and caught a 36-yard touchdown pass to tie it up again.
Jantz and West hooked up for the second time with 27 seconds left in the half, this time for a 7-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
Baylor picked Jantz off to record their first takeaway of the year in Big 12 play, but Iowa State turned around and stuffed Florence on 4th-and-1 at the Cyclones 18-yard line.
Iowa State's defense kept giving Jantz the ball back - getting four takeaways and stopping Baylor three times on fourth down - and his offensive line kept giving him time to make plays.
It all led to a record-breaking game for a senior who wasn't even starting a week ago.
"I think he's a good football player. I think he provides a spark. I think he's a kind of fearless player," Baylor coach Art Briles said.