Dan McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney spoke to the Big 12 media Monday via teleconference, looking ahead to his team's clash with top-ranked Oklahoma, which comes in fresh after a bye week.

Opening comments:

"We were disappointed with our loss to Northern Illinois. It was a tremendous college football game and I was proud of the effort of everyone involved here at Iowa State. It was basically still a one-point game with less than two minutes to go. Northern Illinois executed and made the plays and we weren't able to. Joe Novak has done a fantastic job over there and I'm very happy to see the success he's having. He's a wonderful guy and great coach."

"The Big 12 race begins this week for all of us in the league. We have a chance to play and coach against the best team in the country right now in Oklahoma. They're very deserving of the ranking. I think they're outscoring people 42-17 in the first four games, and are nationally ranked in all kinds of categories. They're just an outstanding football team and have all kinds of team speed, are very physical and well coached. You can't find any weaknesses. They're playing with major confidence in all three phases of the team."

Latest on injuries:

"We'll know more later today on Jordan Carstens. He'll get an MRI this afternoon. Obviously, he's very doubtful for the game this week. We'll find out more of the extent of the injury. Sunday is our day off and I haven't seen Jordan yet. We'll know more this afternoon.

"Unfortunately, Hiawatha Rutland's career is over at Iowa State. They're going to do an MRI on him today, but without the MRI they're almost convinced that it's (a torn ACL). It's a serious knee injury. There was no question that through the manual exam after the game that he was done for the year.

"What a great young man he's been in our program. We're going to miss him dearly. He was off to a great start in that game over at Northern Illinois last week. He was playing fast and physical. Those things happen. It's part of the game. We'll sure miss him, but are very thankful for the contribution he made here in his career at Iowa State."

On Oklahoma coming out of off week:

"They are never bad and never seem to be average with anything they do. Coach Stoops and his staff really do a fabulous job coming out of open weeks. We had one a week ago and felt we improved as a team even in the loss over nationally-ranked Northern Illinois. I'm sure Oklahoma will be at their best when they come in here Saturday night.

"Everybody handles it differently, but the keys are always to rest players that need it and give some recovery time to those that are injured, and to work on the things that you need to improve on. We know that they'll come in here ready to play and playing like the top ranked team in the country."

On overcoming injuries:

"It's tough. You've got certain players that can really impact your football team, and in their absence, we look at it as it's got to be a great opportunity for that next guy to step it up, pull his weight, do his part, and be a giver and not a taker. When somebody goes down, what a great opportunity for you to give to this football team. You feel horrible for the young men that do get injured, but it's a fabulous opportunity for the next guy to step it up and do a great job for the team. But hopefully (this trend) will slow down here pretty soon."

On keeping positive outlook as a coach:

"As bad as the loss felt against Northern Illinois, because we did so many good things and had our chances to win it, I felt worse about the injuries to the players. Every coach is the same. You get so attached to them, have so much compassion for them and they give us so much, when something happens like that it tears your heart out. It's one of the very few things that I really dislike about coaching football. We'll still love them, support them and help them in any way we can. It's one of the toughest things to deal with in this profession."

"We would have liked to have had more success in the non-conference games. We've played two nationally ranked teams the last two weeks and came up short against Iowa and Northern Illinois. We're one of those teams where there is a blend of experience and veterans, then we have quite a few young guys playing and getting better each week. It's a young team in some phases, but the spirit and resolve of this program is good and strong right now."

On Stevie Hicks' progress:

"He had problems from an injury standpoint for two to three weeks when he wasn't 100 percent. He really looks 100 percent now and his role has changed with Hiawatha down. He is definitely our number two running back going into the game this week. He played a little bit at Northern Illinois, but his playing time will definitely increase now."

On how depth shakes up behind Carstens:

"Brent Curvey would be the starter and the guy to step in as a true freshman. He's a 290-pounder that had played very little going into last week's game. Then he played a lot of snaps and got a lot of experience last week. He's really improved. He and Jason Berryman are two quality freshmen defensive linemen. Brent's going to have a real fine future here. It looks like he'll be the starter this week."

On Oklahoma's punt return game:

"Antonio Perkins is as good as I've seen since I've been in the Big 12. As a punt returner, he's got 357 yards in four games. That's unbelievable. They've got speed, a great scheme and one of the top guys in all of college football taking it back. Ever since Bobby Stoops has been at Oklahoma, their special teams have been nothing less than outstanding. They're right back at it in 2003. We're going to have to be sound, do a great job of tackling and do a good job of strategy going into a game like this facing one of the top return men in the country."

On increased role for Johnny Smith:

"(Smith and Harold Clewis) will both play on Saturday. I think we've had 15 guys that have been out for weeks or for the season, and Johnny is one of those guys. Thank God he is back and is healthy again. It's good to have him. The competition will be good back there. Both of those kids played Saturday and both will play against Oklahoma. Then we'll continue to evaluate as practice goes on."

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