Ben Bruns was a standout center at Iowa State and a key member of the 2000 senior class that led Iowa State to a 9-3 record and top 25 ranking in both the Coach's and AP polls. Bruns finished 5th in the voting for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the top center in college football, and in high school was named the Class 1-A Player of the Year by the Des Moines Register. The native of Denver, Iowa now provides analysis for the Cyclone Radio Network and Cyclone Nation during the football season.
CN: Knowing how hard guys in your class worked to get back that Cy-Hawk Trophy and keep it, can you describe how you felt watching Robert Gallery lead the Hawkeyes across the field to take back with them to Iowa City?
BRUNS: I remembered what it felt like for us and remembered what a good feeling it was to have the trophy. I also hoped they had enough class to just be happy for themselves and not at the expense of our guys.
CN: Right before halftime, ISU had an opportunity to at least put three points on the scoreboard and maybe get some momentum heading into the third quarter. However, for the second time this season in that situation the Cyclones did not manage the clock properly. How does that happen?
BRUNS: I thought they did a nice job working the ball down the field and that Austin Flynn made a heck of a smart play a couple of downs before the final play of the half to throw the ball away. In the last play of the half, Flynn was looking to the endzone, but everyone was covered. Lance had some space, so he slung it over to the sideline hoping Lance could get in or get out of bounds. Iowa's defensive back did a nice job closing to take that space away before the ball got there. I thought it was a nice play by the corner. It was unfortunate to not come away with points, but I understand why a freshman quarterback made the play he made.
CN: If I would have told you before the game that ISU would hold Fred Russell to 75 yards on 26 carries, how much of a chance would you have given Iowa to win the game?
BRUNS: I wouldn't have given them much of a chance at all. If you had told me they would have only 10 first downs, I'd have said that the Cyclones would win by 20.
CN: We knew that Iowa's special teams were special, but have you ever seen a game that was so decidedly determined in lopsided fashion by the kicking game?
BRUNS: Going into the game, I thought our special teams were as good or better. However, the one unit I have always worried about is the punt team. If I were playing us, I would run a block every time we punted. If Iowa would have tried to block it four times they would have blocked it four times with the same scheme.
CN: Coach Mac admitted on his call-in show Monday night that Iowa used the same scheme twice in a row to get those two punt blocks and that he was extremely disappointed by that. How does that happen?
BRUNS: It tells me our scheme – by asking too much of a guy – is either unsound or that a guy who was in the game shouldn't have been in there. Usually, players don't – or aren't allowed to – make the same mental mistake twice, so we're down to two possibilities.
CN: Is the talent just not there on the offensive line or is the loss of Bob Montgomery just that difficult to overcome?
BRUNS: Bob will help a bunch when he gets back. Matt Bockes was injured and there were way too many mental mistakes by some of the linemen. I think it is a talented bunch that moves better than we did back in the day. But, the fact is that there was a combined three years of starting experience out there on Saturday. That is gonna make it hard to win.
CN: One question I get asked a lot from fans, who remember Troy Davis running for 2,000 yards behind offensive lines that certainly didn't boast a bunch of Parade All-Americans, is what has happened to ISU's run-blocking the last two years? You're certainly more qualified to answer that than I am, so do you have an answer?
BRUNS: Offensive line play has so much to do with technique. As evidenced by the Minnesota Vikings' success in the run game last year when no one said they would run the ball at all and again at the start of this season, Steve Loney is one of the best technique teachers in the business. Forget getting your man blocked. If your head was on the wrong side of his body, or if your free hand was in when it shouldn't have been, you would have received a negative grade on the play. Do that same thing in practice more than once, and you were going to be sitting down for a couple of days. The technique in the zone running game was outstanding by the teams that blocked for Troy, but Troy was special, too.
CN: Is Austin Flynn being put into a position that he's running too much considering the pounding he's going to take against ISU's rigorous schedule?
BRUNS: I think he is running a lot of the time because he has to. Our receivers are very talented, but they don't always work themselves open by the time Austin reads it and is pressured. He will have a long season if the run game doesn't get going. I don't care how good of a pass protector you are; if they know you're throwing, it makes it hard.
CN: Is it time to give Stevie Hicks another shot at tailback, or is the blocking just not good enough no matter who is in the backfield?
BRUNS: You've got to have holes no matter who you are.
CN: Was Ellis Hobbs the best player on the football field last Saturday? I certainly thought he made the best play of the game when he knocked back Gallery to drop Russell on a 3rd-and-goal.
BRUNS: I thought Ellis was playing at a different level of urgency than anyone else on the field Saturday. I watched Gallery a lot on Saturday, and my only comment is that I'm sure he wasn't too sore on Sunday, but he had Ellis in his sights and Ellis blew his legs up and made a great play on Russell.
CN: Considering ISU is getting literally nothing from the tight end position, is it time to deploy Ryan Kock at fullback more or even go to more four-receiver sets in order to get the best 11 players on offense on the field?
BRUNS: Some of our better running plays included Kock. I've always liked the spread formation from an offensive line standpoint if you are going to run zone blocking. However, spread makes it harder to run trap/pull schemes and isolations that we appear to be leaning toward in our play selection. In other words, I think we will continue to run one and two tights to try and run the ball because we aren't running zone as well as we used to.
CN: In its last 10 games, ISU is 3-7 and has been outscored 345-211 while averaging just 133 yards rushing per game. Plus, the Cyclones have a minus-13 turnover margin. What can be done during the bye week to reverse those ominous trends?
BRUNS: Unfortunately, this stuff takes a lot longer than a week to change. You don't just get a dominant running game in two weeks, but it will help to have our best offensive lineman back in the fold.