Fireworks Aplenty During 30-27 Cardinal Win

Even though Saturday afternoon's spring game played out in front of a small crowd braving dreary conditions at Jack Trice Stadium it was not without some fireworks both on and off the field. The Cardinal team used a 27-yard field goal from Tony Yelk in the closing seconds to pull out a 30-27 victory, capping Iowa State's 15th and final workout of the spring. ISU head coach Dan McCarney spotted the White team 20 points to open the game.

Fans got a glimpse of Stevie Hicks they were waiting for, and the redshirt freshman responded with a dazzling 33-yard run in the second half playing for the first-teamers. The quarterback battle between Cris Love and Austin Flynn played out evenly, with Love gaining an edge in passing and Flynn a clear advantage in scrambling.

Love completed 12-of-24 attempts for 167 yards and two touchdowns overall, opening the game with the ones before putting on a White jersey in the second half. Flynn added 64 yards on 7-of-12 completions, while showing off his knack as a running quarterback. Flynn took advantage of his time with the Cardinal team, rushing for 83 yards on nine carries.

"Again today you saw the way it's been all spring," said McCarney, referring to the battling quarterbacks. "Both of them did some real good things, and were a little better when they were with the ones naturally. Cris did a nice job late with the long touchdown pass to Jon Davis. That competition, I think you can see today when I talk about how close it is, that's the way it's been all spring long. It will be a great battle (in the fall) to see number one."

The end of many spring games can be anti-climactic, but this one wasn't as Yelk came on with time winding down and split the uprights to hand the Cardinal a three-point victory.

A last-second field was one of many game-like situations McCarney enjoyed watching his team perform in.

"We got a lot done, got out of it healthy and it was a real clean scrimmage overall," he said. "There weren't a of flags thrown out there or many turnovers. It was a good work day under real tough conditions with the turnovers. You just couldn't script it much better than that, coming down to the last play of the game and you have to have a game-winning field goal. A lot of situations came up in the game, with two-minute drives and hurry-hurry offense."

Both quarterbacks took turns spearheading fourth quarter scoring drives…to the delight of those in attendance. Love hit Davis for 70 yards and a touchdown with 5:45 remaining to tie the score at 27-27. The points were the White's only of the afternoon.

But Flynn and the top offense had an answer. Taking over with just over four minutes remaining, the Cardinal got a 33-yard run from Hicks to get into scoring position. Flynn took over from there, rushing three times for 15 yards down to the 10-yard line. Yelk came on with time winding down to cap off a narrow victory for the starters.

"It was good competition and good work," McCarney said. "I got a good taste in my mouth about this football team today, just like I did all spring long. There's a good feeling in that locker room."

The battles in ISU's offensive backfield got much of the attention Saturday, but a stingy defense had the upper hand throughout much of the day. The first-team unit held White rushers to negative-one yard rushing on 13 attempts, and intercepted two passes while holding the trio of Flynn, Love and Kyle Van Winkle to 88 yards passing.

Interior defensive linemen Jordan Carstens and Nick Leaders spent much of the day in the opponent's backfield and combined for four tackles and two stops for loss.

"We came out and played really tough up front," said Carstens, who was named one of seven captains for the 2003 season. "The front seven guys played really well and we did well in the back end, too. It was a pretty solid effort, everybody came out to play and we had a pretty good result. Anytime we have the chance to get some momentum, we want to take it. Playing together in this game and working together well as a defense is going to help us."

McCarney gave his defense some rave reviews afterwards, saying the unit could be his best in years.

"Hopefully when it's all said and done and the season's over next year, we can look back on it and say this was the best defense we've had," he said. "I think we have a chance to. But it will be the development of those guys in the next few months before the season starts. We need more quality backups that we can put out there in the rotation on game day. We need those guys to get better and keep improving."

At least Love, Flynn and Waye Terry – when he returns from an injury this fall – won't have to worry about facing the top defense many more times before ISU's season opens against Northern Iowa.

Nonetheless, all of the parties involved feel good about their chances and the overall situation at quarterback heading into the summer.

"It's learning from Seneca all during the fall and playing on the scout team going up against that first-team defense," said Flynn of his progress in the past eight months. "That helped me to pick up the speed in the Big 12. That will help in the fall. Even learning from Cris Love will help. He's an outstanding quarterback and knows the offense more than anybody on the team."

Added Love, "Waye will be back in it, too, and Flynn switching in and out. They'll give everybody an equal chance still. It's going to be a fight until the first game comes around. Whatever our own attributes are, we have to make the best of them. If there is a run to be made, then I have to try to make that run. If there's a ball to be thrown, I have to do that."

McCarney named seven captains prior to the spring game: Carstens, Lane Danielsen, Bob Montgomery, Casey Shelton, Chris Whitaker, Hiawatha Rutland and Joe Woodley.

"I'm thrilled about my captains," he said. "There was a pack of seven seniors that are fifth-year guys that have had a lot to do with the success of our team, and they just jumped way out in front of those other kids. Twenty of them received votes, but those seven were just way up in the pack. I wasn't going to cut any of those guys from being leaders of this team. What a great group of captains we'll have."

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