Tide/Cyclones an interesting match

After much speculation, and many seats in Adelphia Coliseum bought up by Alabama faithful, the Crimson world was surprised Sunday by the announcement that the Tide will face the Iowa State Cyclones in the Independence Bowl on December 27th, 2001. The 6-5 Tide will travel to Shreveport to meet a 7-4 Cyclone team that hit a three-game slide late in the year, only to rebound to win its last two contests.

The Cyclones notched victories this season over Northern Iowa (45-0), Ohio (31-28), Baylor (41-0), Missouri (20-14), Oklahoma State (28-14), Kansas (49-7), and Iowa (17-14). They fell hard to Nebraska (48-14) and Kansas State (42-3) while dropping closer games to Texas A&M (24-21) and Colorado (40-27).

Iowa State brings a 7-4 record with them into the postseason, competing in one of college football's premier conferences. The Independence Bowl will once again be televised on ESPN. This will be the Cyclones second consecutive bowl trip, having beaten Pittsburgh 37-29 in last year¹s Insight.com bowl.

Averaging 111 yards per game, Iowa State's Ennis Haywood led the Big XII in rushing this season.

Iowa State is led my Coach Dan McCarney, the CollegeFootballNews.com Big 12 Coach of the year. Under his direction, the Cyclones have won 16 out of their last 23 games, and have been victorious in 8 out of their last 11 contests on the road.

Having coached against the Cyclones before (a game his Horned Frogs won 31-21), Dennis Franchione respects their program. "We're excited to play Iowa State. I know Dan McCarney well. Our opening game in 1998 at TCU was against Iowa State. I've gotten to know Dan and have a great appreciation for what he's done in building that program. Iowa has hung with him in giving him the opportunity to build it. I know they will be a challenge."

Junior quarterback Seneca Wallace, who was named the Big XII Offensive Newcomer of the Year, leads the Cyclone offense. In his first year out of junior college, Wallace threw for over 2000 yards and rushed for another 600. He has a 132.71 pass efficiency rating, connecting on 11 touchdowns and only tossing nine interceptions.

Wallace is joined in the backfield by the Big XII's leading rusher, tailback Ennis Haywood, who gained 1222 yards on 258 attempts this season. Wallace's favorite target is receiver Lane Danielsen, who caught 49 balls for close to 700 yards this season. Kicker Tony Yelk is 8-of-18 in field goal attempts this season.

Offensively, Iowa State averages slightly more than 384 yards per game, divided almost equally between run (182) and pass (202). "I only got to see Iowa State briefly in the Colorado game, so I don't yet know a great deal about them this year," Franchione said. "But having played Dan I know that they have been fairly multiple on offense. They have a balance between run and pass."

Shown holding the Insight.com Bowl trophy, Cyclone Head Coach Dan McCarney has slowly returned Iowa State to respectability.

The Cyclones took almost 30,000 fans to their bowl game last season, and Independence Bowl Executive Director Glen Krupica expects the team to travel well again. "The Cyclones have put together another great season under Coach Dan McCarney," Krupica said. "Over the last two years, we have become very impressed with Iowa State's football program, enthusiastic fans, and their leadership."

Iowa State is led on defense by middle linebacker Matt Word. The diminutive athlete is only six feet tall, but he notched 106 total tackles this year. Not far behind Word is linebacker Justin Eilers, a senior who recorded 94 tackles from his outside spot. In the defensive backfield, the Cyclones have a nose for the football, picking off 18 passes this season. Senior strong safety Adam Runk is the team leader with four picks. Runk is also the team's third-leading tackler, with 90 takedowns.

Steve Loney is the Cyclones' offensive coordinator, and John Skladany calls the defensive signals. Coach McCarney was a defensive line coach at his alma mater, Iowa, before joining Wisconsin as Barry Alvarez's defensive coordinator for five seasons. The Iowa State job, which he assumed in 1995, was his first head coaching assignment.

McCarney endured four straight losing seasons at Iowa State, accumulating a 13-42 record before the 2000 season. That 9-3 Insight.com bowl champion squad was his first team at ISU with a winning record.

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