Pregame Quotebook: Iowa

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the local media for his weekly Tuesday press conference. Here is a complete transcription of his comments.

Opening comments:

"It's a pretty exciting week. Electricity is in the air and you can feel it. You see the bleachers getting put up in the stadium. There is a lot of enthusiasm and focus on this game. It's an honor for me as a coach and especially as a native Iowan to coach in this game."

"Our special teams captain for the Iowa game is Nick Linder. He's done a really outstanding job in our first two games. It will be a thrill for him, as it will be for all 27 of our seniors playing in this game. Our MVPs from the Ohio game were Ellis Hobbs on defense, Austin Flynn on offense and Lane Danielsen on special teams."

"Iowa is obviously a great challenge and are the defending Big 10 champs. They're out-scoring their opponents 38 ½ points to five points in their first two games. They're ranked 19th and 23rd in the two polls and rank in the top 10 in many categories.

"They have some very new faces and old faces, and have some guys that we have coached against forever and guys we haven't coached against yet. But I still see 14 juniors or seniors in the two-deep. They're very seasoned players, so we know we'll have our hands full."

"We've got over 70 players in our program from the state of Iowa. Half of my starters and half of my two-deep are from the state of Iowa. So that means we're going to have a lot of focus from our end. I'll have eight starters starting their first game against Iowa, including four freshmen we all know about."

"There is a lot of urgency from our standpoint. We've got to make a lot of improvement from last week to this week to have a chance to win this game. That's exactly what I told our football team. Anything less is not going to be enough."

On improvements needed to be made:

"We still did a lot of good things on defense the other day, but we gave up some obvious big plays. You need to make people earn the things they get. Poor technique and poor fundamentals, we were real sloppy on those three plays. You can see what happened. It could have been real one-sided and we dominate and have control throughout, they make those three big plays and keep hanging around. That's something we need to cut down on defensively.

"Offensively, we still have a long ways to go from a blocking standpoint. There were a lot of plays that we didn't finish blocks. They got off of blocks and were more determined to get to the ball than we were to block them. We need to do a better job of that.

"The turnover ratio was better Saturday. We got two on defense and none on offense, but that's still not what we're looking. We're looking for a minimum of three to four every game defensively, so we're always looking for improvement.

"We have done a lot of good things on special teams, but still when we go back and break it down, we have a lot of improvement to make. Yet we came out of those first two games feeling like we won special teams and the kicking game."

On this game's effect on instate recruiting:

"To tell you that it has not over the recent years, I would be lying. We tried to create a cause when we got here, and that's a relentless dedication. Our cause has been to get somebody around America, starting here in the state of Iowa, to respect Cyclone football. To do that, you'd better start getting some of those players that Iowa or anybody else wants from around the country.

"There's no doubt, when you see the lineup we have with a lot of Iowa kids, had we been losing the last five years and the streak went to 20, could we have gone to bowl games? I don't think so. Could we have had the chance to win 16 of our last 21 games at home without good Iowa kids? I don't think so. It does impact it, but I don't think kids are going to come out of that game and call Kirk or myself and say they're coming because of the game's outcome. But it sure hasn't hurt our recruiting."

On outside distractions effecting team focus:

"We need to stay focused on the job at hand. That's the offensive line blocking their front seven, our quarterback reading their defense, our receivers trying to win the matchups with their defense and our defensive line against their offensive line. That's what counts.

"But all of the other stuff on the outside is great. I'm glad these kids are a part of this. More and more people are interested in this game, and that's why it's probably going national now instead of just part of the country. I want the kids to enjoy it. You only get one chance to be college football players, so enjoy it. But don't sit around patting yourself on the back about anything we've done yet, because here comes Iowa."

On valuing trophies in the program:

"We've tried to put real emphasis on them, because it represents winning, the champion. Whether it's the Telephone Trophy, the Senior Bowl that started here, the Cy-Hawk Trophy or the bowl champion trophy we brought back for the first time, they're all real meaningful."

"You're talking about 15 years, nobody at this place ever saw it or touched it. The only way you could see it is through pictures of it through the media guide. Finally they get to see it up close and in person. We're going to do all we can to hold onto it another year."

On Austin Flynn's preparation for this game:

"I've got to believe and trust that his maturity and preparation going into this game is going to be a positive and a plus. But really we won't know until Saturday. He's handled things with a lot of maturity and class the first two games, for somebody that had never played. The pressure that's on a freshman can be great. But knowing what I've seen of him and the look in his eye on gameday, he'll be ready to play. I just have to have faith in him and trust him.

"If he makes a mistake, which he will, I'm not going to jerk him and throw Waye Terry or Cris Love out there and shoot his confidence. He's our starter and has earned that right. Hopefully he can go out and start the rest of the year."

On Iowa's defense:

"They're only giving up five points. They're really physical and their team speed is outstanding. That's why Kirk has been winning, the great defensive speed they have. They can pressure the quarterback without blitzing, and that's one of the real keys on a great defense. Can you get to them with your four? Can you disrupt, pressure and collapse the pocket without having to always blitz? Teams that always blitz get burned a lot, because you can't make a living on it. This is one of the better defenses we'll see all year."

On comfort level with offensive line:

"They have to be ready for the challenge. Aaron Brant is going to have to play fast. Things are going to happen fast. The speed of their defense and the game is going to be greater than it was the last two weeks, because of the talent that's coming into the stadium. We can always prepare them, coach them and show them things so much, then it's up to them to go out there and block them.

"I think it's going to be a real good matchup. There are a lot of similarities on these two teams when you look at offense, defense and special teams. But they've got nine or 10 kids coming in here all with honors from 2002. We've got a couple kids. They went on to have a dream season and are defending Big 10 champs. We've got to do all we can to match that."

On ability to run against Iowa's front seven:

"You saw last week the balance we want to try to get, and we know it's going to be a lot tougher to get yards, first downs and points this week. We want to get back to balance and be a good running team. That's every week, no matter if we're playing Iowa's defense, Oklahoma's or Kansas State's.

"We were a lot better last week against a defense that was every bit as good as Northern Iowa's, which shows that our offense, blockers and offensive line did a better job. But yards aren't going to come easy. If we think we're going into this game and hammer them in front to win the game, we're crazy. It's going to be a combination and we're going to have to protect, pick up blitzes and handle their guys. I think they have even more speed in their defensive line than they did last year."

On Michael Wagner's emergence as go-to guy:

"He's our starter, but Hiawatha Rutland is getting better now that he's down on our end and not on the scout team. We'll use them both, and Stevie (Hicks) will probably be in the game just like he was last week. It's not a necessity, but that's just part of the gameplan. We like all three of those backs.

"But Wags is the starter and it's up to those other guys to beat him out. They're all complementing each other pretty well right now and we've got a rotation going there."

On how Iowa has reeled off five consecutive wins:

"There isn't any one thing or a couple plays that you can put your finger on. They're four quarters, 15 rounders, it's whoever can outlast the other one. From a mental standpoint, our kids have believed that we could win the game. I don't know that was the case my first couple years here and in many years before I was here. But right now, going into this game, they believe that they can win. I'm sure Iowa feels the same way. That's what usually makes for an exciting game."

On Brad Banks' fumble last year making big difference:

"I think there were a couple things, not just the turnover. We had to come out in the second half with our offense and get some points on the board. It's great to get a touchdown, but get some points with either a field goal or touchdown. We needed to send a message to each other and to Iowa that we're going to be back in this game. We were fortunate enough to do that with a great drive led by Seneca (Wallace).

"That and then two turnovers and then another one that got us back in the game, gave us a chance and then you could really feel the confidence on our football team from the sidelines. They really believed we could come back and win the game. We fully anticipate it's going to go down to the last series or two in this game, and hopefully we can make the plays that count."

On Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler:

"I think he's a heck of a quarterback. He's way up there in pass efficiency. He's strong and physical. He hasn't been hit much or sacked much. He was sacked the first play of the season against Miami of Ohio, but he hasn't been hit much since then. He's real strong and you can tell, because even when they've had a hold of him or grabbed him, he was still able to throw it and get rid of it, still throw it and complete, or get away from people. I'm real impressed with him.

"He looked like a guy that's been in the program for a long time. He's been around and been coached in different places. This is his third school now – Texas Tech, junior college and Iowa. He's no rookie; he's not green. He's been around and watched and been coached. He's playing with a lot of confidence."

On Iowa secondary:

"They're playing better and are more athletic. They're after the ball in the air. There's no question that's a better secondary than what we saw last year. They're coached well. Even with Bob Sanders out, they're still playing real good football back there. They're playing more aggressive in the back end going after the football. That's going to make our job harder."

On Iowa running back Fred Russell:

"He's as good as we'll see, and I know we'll see Darren Sproles and some great backs in our league. He's got it all. He's that type of back that every head coach wants in his offense. He's fast, physical, tough and makes extra yards. He's coached outstanding with Carl Jackson. He's a great ball security back. He's a big play waiting to happen every down."

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