Football Insider: Ohio

In the second edition of CN's Football Insider, Ben Bruns sums up Iowa State's performance against UNI and takes a look at the offensive line's performance first outing since the loss of starter Bob Montgomery, along with the career debut of quarterback Austin Flynn.

CN: Before we get into specifics this week, let's address a creeping feeling among some residents of The Nation that this season could be more of a struggle than originally thought based on the narrow win over Northern Iowa. Do you agree with that assessment or do you feel that's putting too much emphasis on the first game?

BRUNS: Whether it was fair to UNI or not, I expected that game to be an avalanche. Obviously, it wasn't and it came down to the wire. The good news is that, like Mac said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game, no one in the locker room was happy with what happened in the game. It makes it even harder to feel good when you lose one of your own for the season.

CN: What's your opinion of the way the offensive line played without Bob Montgomery?

BRUNS: I thought at times they did a very nice job, and at other times they took turns making mistakes. On one drive, everything was clicking and they moved the ball very effectively. That gives you hope for the future. While they are young, they all look extremely good in terms of size and fitness level. It is obviously they worked at their development in the off season.

CN: Is there anything personnel-wise that can be done to improve this unit or is it just a matter of waiting for Montgomery to get healthy?

BRUNS: I think having Bob back will help a lot on a bunch of different levels. He brings leadership, experience and ability to the group that they need to be successful.

CN: Were you as equally impressed with Austin Flynn's debut at quarterback as I was?

BRUNS: Absolutely. You don't know how a freshman is going to respond and what kind of poise he will have. Austin responded with poise and moxie. I was impressed with his ability in the spring game and feel even more so about him now.

CN: I thought the offensive play-calling was overly conservative. ISU only threw on first down one time the entire game, putting itself in a hole too often with 2nd-and-long. Was that a product of the inexperience on offense, saving parts of the game plan for more worthy opposition, or both?

BRUNS: I think there was a very conscious effort on behalf of the coaching staff to work formations and play calls that they felt could be effective in running the football first. No doubt about it, they were committed to running out of a multiple tight end, fullback set.

With the way Flynn responded, I think it would be strange not to have the strength of our offensive team, which is the wide receiving corps, out there on the field more than they were on Saturday. I think Lane Danielsen and Jack Whitver probably didn't feel like they played a game on Sunday morning.

CN: How come Stevie Hicks ran for just 19 yards on 12 carries while Michael Wagner ran for 87 yards on 17 carries behind the same offensive line? Was Stevie just too tentative?

BRUNS: I was impressed with Mike Wags' speed and power. He really looked good in that game. But he is a guy that played as a freshman until he got hurt. He has the experience to know when to burst downhill in a game situation. The game slows down around you as you become more experienced. I'm sure the game tempo was faster than Stevie had seen before and it tends to make younger guys be indecisive.

CN: Do you expect to see a lot of Hiawatha Rutland at tailback this week against Ohio? If so, how do you anticipate he will respond to his demotion and the loss of his captaincy after his OWI arrest in July?

BRUNS: I don't know exactly how Hiawatha will respond, but whatever he does, I'm sure it will be memorable.

CN: Can the Cyclones overcome the loss of Tyson Smith on defense?

BRUNS: I don't know if overcome is how I would put it. They will need to adjust to him not being there and will need outstanding play by a couple of young guys. On the other hand, a lot of times this sort of loss can help inspire a unit to play for someone else: similar to how the offense of Joe Parmentier and Todd Bandhauer looked at the loss of Marc Cortez before the '98 Iowa game. We all had one purpose, and it went beyond people's inherent desires to think only of themselves.

CN: I was surprised ISU's highly-touted defensive line only combined for one sack and one tackle-for-loss against a I-AA opponent. Were you disappointed in that as well?

BRUNS: I wasn't disappointed at all. They had a lot of pressure on the quarterback all day and got a bunch of nice hits on him. This D-line is more of a run stuffing unit than a sack attack, and they showed it Saturday. I think the quality of our secondary will continue to allow us to gamble up front with linebackers and safety blitz packages.

CN: Overall, the defense did an excellent job limiting UNI's offense, but they never really made any big plays (i.e. forced turnovers) that changed the momentum of the game. Are there things that can be done to improve that or is it just a matter of guys making plays?

BRUNS: I think they had a lot of opportunities to make big plays and that came from being in the right place at the right time. The other thing I noticed was that we hit them harder than I've ever seen us hit another team. That is a good thing for the future of this defense. At the same time, the offense has to limit the defense's time on the field or they can be worn down over time. UNI had too many possessions on Saturday.

CN: Besides Flynn and Hicks, what did you think of the rest of the newcomers that played?

BRUNS: I thought their youth and inexperience showed on some occasions. It takes some time to get used to the game speed. I thought it was interesting that on the first play of the game Kevin Stensrud, brother of Andy, was lined up with Aaron Brant. They came off the ball at each other and had a stalemate. Not an easy guy to go up against on your first time out, as Kevin is a tough, hard-nosed guy. Stensrud kind of told him 'welcome to the big leagues,' but Aaron held his ground and blocked hard through the whole game. He is going to be someone very special before his four years are up.

CN: You played Ohio your senior year, and they're still one of the few teams left in Division I-A that deploys a triple-option offense at times. How much of an adjustment will that be for the Cyclones this week?

BRUNS: I think it will be a big adjustment for the defense, but in 2000 we handled it very well. Offensively, if they are still predominately a 50 front team (5 down linemen, with one positioned in the center of the center's body, two tackles positioned in the center of our tackle's bodies and two ends outside the tight end) it will be very challenging for Matt Bockes. That style of defense puts a lot of pressure on the center because the noseguard can defend two gaps very easily; more so than if he were shaded or offset to one side of the center or the other.

CN: Are fans that expect to see ISU "bounce back" with a blowout this week just setting themselves up to be disappointed?

BRUNS: Yep. With a young team, they need to get a lot better this week. However, Ohio is a solid football team that can pose a challenge for a veteran club if they are not ready.

CN: Give us your keys to a victory over the Bobcats on Saturday.

BRUNS: Solid, assignment defense, offensive diversity, and increased performance in the run game with more involvement of our wide receivers will win this game and others down the road.

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