Pregame Quotebook: N. Illinois

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.

General comments:

"Our special teams captain for the Northern Illinois game will be Erik Anderson. He's another former walk-on that's earned a scholarship in the program and done a heck of a job in the program."

"The players that will be available this week that were not the last game: Matt Robertson at linebacker, Johnny Smith at cornerback and Matt Bockes in the offensive line."

"We're going to get another X-Ray on Bob Montgomery later today. Everything is going real good for him. He's ahead of schedule in recovery, but what we don't want to do is put him out there too early and then have something happen. We've got to be sure on him. But he's been running, conditioning and lifting weights. He got some individual work out there in pads last night. If the doctors give us the OK, we're going to get him some more work the next few nights and he'll play in the game on Saturday."

"Northern Illinois is a tremendous football team and all of the country realizes that now. We knew that watching their tape last year and their eight victories. Many of the wins they had and the near miss at Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin. With very few exceptions, this is the same team we saw all of last year. They've won 11 of their last 15 games. Joe Novak has done as good a job in college coaching as anybody in the country. Everybody is starting to realize that after they beat Maryland and Alabama."

"They're a veteran team and very confident. You could see that from the very first snap at Alabama to the last. They went down there to win and that's exactly what they did. I don't see weaknesses. You're always trying to hunt them up and find mismatches with personnel. They're very solid to outstanding at every position on their football team."

"They won the special teams down at Alabama and blocked a punt and PAT for a two-point advantage. They're making lots of plays."

"Josh Haldi is an outstanding quarterback. He has one pick and seven touchdowns. They can get you throwing and running. He's making great decisions and has a 62 percent completion average. He is the real deal and really a great leader of that offense."

"Michael Turner is one of the real premier players in college football and had nearly 2,000 yards last year. When you go down there and Alabama is giving up 50 yards a game and he puts up 156 on them, that tells you a lot about his abilities and that offensive that was blocking for him."

"Defensively, they've got two big victories over Maryland over Alabama and are giving up 15 points a game. They're outstanding on that side of the ball. They have a number of guys that were all-conference last year that are back. They play that way. They're not cautious with anything and are an aggressive, attacking-style defense. They make a lot of big plays, tackles for loss and pressure on the quarterbacks. They run and rally to the ball about as good as anybody we've seen."

On type of back Turner reminds him of:

"It's hard to say that he reminds me of any one certain back. He's so explosive, powerful and thick. Watching him run, you can see how many defenders bounce off him when they think they've got good leverage to tackle him. He breaks many tackles and is a good blocker.

"I would guess he's a bigger version of Troy Davis, because he made a lot of guys miss. He's a much bigger back that has tremendous speed and can break it. The thing you see over and over are how many great plays and tough runs he makes inside that tackle box area."

On importance of running game and frustration with lack of consistency:

"That's really been missing. Hopefully Bobby coming back will help upgrade and improve some of that. You rarely see teams that are having success consistently without a good, solid running game. You don't have to lead the conference, but you have to have a good ground game that you can go to. It opens up play action passing and the passing game. You dictate more of the action if you do have a running game, rather than the defense doing it.

"That's one of the things we have really spent a lot of time with since the Iowa game. That's one of the premier defenses in all of college football and we couldn't run the ball a lick. That really had an impact on the outcome of the game. Hopefully we'll get back to having more success this week.

"We've got to move the line of scrimmage, sustain blocks, be more physical and our fundamentals have to be better. Iowa clearly won the fundamental pad level battle in the trenches and were lower and more aggressive. When you're doing that to an offensive front, you really have the advantage."

On encouraging signs with rush defense:

"I'm real pleased with a lot of things we're doing defensively, and that really got lost in that 40-point barrage that Iowa was able to put up. The defense didn't have a lot to do with some of those points, because of field position. We've got a lot to build on defensively coming out of that game. It sounds crazy when you give up 40 points, but the goal-line stands at the four and six yard line, and they get the ball at the 33. Holding a great back like Fred Russell to 75 yards rushing (is encouraging).

"The only thing that I'm real disappointed with defensively is a lack of turnovers. We've been really good at that in recent years as we've turned this program around, but we don't have one interception and three forced fumbles. That's way off what our goals are, what I expect and our players expect. We've got to do something about it, and that's going to be hard because Northern Illinois does a great job of taking care of the football.

"Many of the things we're doing right now, we're doing about as good as we've been here. And that's still with some pretty young guys out there."

On heading into this game after bye week:

"There is no doubt we're more healthy and that's what you always hope for coming out of an open week. You have more time to relive a game and feel good about it, or relive a game and feel bad about it. Obviously, we don't have any good feelings about the outcome of the last game. But you can learn from it and move on, which I think we have. We don't have eight or nine losses; we have one. We have a lot of great season ahead.

"I really like the way this team has responded. None of the players have ever lost to Iowa. They had to deal with that and it was a new experience. We put a lot into that game. But they clearly have moved on. The attention to Northern Illinois came real fast.

"The most important thing is trying to put ourselves in a position to win this game, and try to come back 3-1 going into the Big 12 Conference race. We're trying to beat a ranked opponent and beat a team that's playing with about as much confidence as anyone in the country. We need to show that we have made progress and improvement in the areas that we had problems with the last time we played. We're going into this thing letting it all hang out. They're a tremendous football team."

On comparisons between Novak's program and his:

"I think he was 3-30 in those first few years over there. I don't know the situation like Joe knew it, but I'm sure there were people over there wondering whether he was the right guy like if I was the right guy at this job. He has really done a wonderful job. I've known Joe and had great respect for him. We were both in the Big 10 for many years. He was at Illinois and Indiana, while I was at Iowa and Wisconsin. I've always had great respect for him.

"It's really a feel-good story. What he's done over there and now the country realizes the program he has, the type of coach he is and the type of program they have at Northern Illinois."

On recapturing rhythm O-line had going into preseason practice:

"We have to do that. Luke Vander Sanden will definitely be our starting center and we want to leave him alone there. Aaron Brant, Collin Menard, Matt Bockes and Seth Zehr – you'll see them in the game Saturday. Zehr is really getting better and coming along as a redshirt freshman. He's a young offensive lineman, but is going to be a fine player.

"But Bobby is the anchor and heart of that offensive line. He's the strongest, toughest and has one of the great all-time attitudes I've ever been around. Even though he couldn't play the first three games, he still helped this football team in a lot of ways. But he can help us more with that 310-pound body out there blocking for us."

On what it takes to stop premier feature back:

"You've got to be a great tackling defense. There is no doubt about it. Sometimes they may have the advantage with a scheme and it could become a chess game matching up, but you have got to be a great tackler. Rarely does one guy get (Turner) down. That's why you see a guy almost rush for 2,000 yards. For those kinds of backs to rush for those kinds of yards, they've got to break a lot of tackles. We have got to be a great tackling defense and swarm better than we ever have. That's for cutbacks and when he may bounce outside with his speed."

"Anytime you're facing a team that really has a big-time running back with a big, physical offensive line, those defensive linemen are very important. We go into games knowing (Jordan Carstens and Nick Leaders) are going to be anchors for us in the middle that give us a chance. We have improved in rush defense each year I've been here and have gotten better this year."

On Austin Flynn's first road game:

"It is going to be a different environment. He's had three starts at our house and home atmosphere. But I can't imagine a young man going into a game with more pressure on him than the game we just played. The results we didn't like. Wherever we're at in the country, I can't imagine a game with more pressure or focus, and I think he did a lot of real good things in that game than we're going to continue trying to build on. We know it's going to be a tough environment and they're going to be all over him.

"But I have a lot of trust in Austin and have faith in him. The intangibles that we've seen since he was here – even though he was on the scout team last year -- everybody is starting to see. Those ingredients you have to have if you're going to be a real good quarterback. He's tough, mentally and physically, and can take a hit. He can still lead when adversity hits and handles success when things go right. He commands respect in that huddle."

On settling in with one featured back:

"I think it is, I really do. We're not trying to jump guys around and move the depth charts. We'd like to settle in on our starter and our reliever and backup guy. Hopefully that will happen and one guy will emerge. For various reasons, it hasn't happened yet. That's not what we want. We would like to hang our hat on our starter and have him get more of the carries. I know this much – we've got three of them that we feel real good about. Stevie Hicks is healthy now for the first time in quite a while, and that helps. All three of our running backs have had a real good off week of practice."

On Tony Yelk's status:

"It's just day to day. He still has an immobilizer on part of the day just to rest and strengthen it. He was even out punting some balls with the immoblizer on last night. They have to rest it and get it real tight first before they can really start rehabbing, stretching and strengthening it. It's clearly day to day. I think he's questionable for the game this week. We've got four days until kickoff and he is making a lot of improvement."

On importance of special teams play Saturday:

"Troy Blankenship has to step it up for us as the punter. Adam Benike did a real good job on kickoffs. He won't knock it out very often, because he doesn't have Tony's leg strength. But his placement on the kicks were real good and our coverage left something to be desired on two of those returns (against Iowa). It had nothing to do with the kick, because Adam did a real good job.

"We would not take a long shot at the end of the game, like a 55-yarder which we might with Tony if he's not out there. We understand Adam's range. His consistency has been fantastic and he's hit every field goal and PAT."

On cleaning up area of punting:

"The bloods in the water and sharks are coming after. We know that. When you have that problem, they're going to come after us. Northern Illinois blocked a punt against Alabama last week, which was one of the big plays in the game. They blocked a PAT for two points when they took it back. They're very aggressive and we put major time and emphasis in it. We did going into the Iowa game, but had a major breakdown that cost us 10 points in the game and major momentum.

"We've got to get it cleaned up and have really put a lot of time into it. We know they're coming after us. We know we're not going to see a lot of returns or punt safes early in the game. We anticipate them coming after us real hard."


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