Pregame Quotebook: Oklahoma

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:

"We're very excited about the upcoming game with Oklahoma. It's a tremendous challenge. Bobby Stoops is part of a national championship program down there. It seems like every year they're going to be a national champion contending team. There's no doubt when you watch them on tape, that's what he has again this year. We'd better have great focus, tremendous preparation and an extra bounce in our step. I believe that we will going into this game."

"The special teams captain for Oklahoma will be JaMaine Billups. He had an outstanding game over at Northern Illinois in three phases. He blocked the punt and Northern Illinois hadn't had one blocked this year. He did a great job in three phases, so he'll be our captain this week."

"Hiawatha Rutland is obviously out for the year. He will have surgery next week. We really wish him well in his recovery. It's a real sad deal. His spirits are better than you'd expect, better than mine would probably be at a time like this."

"Jimmy Morris, our reserve linebacker, will have surgery today and is out for the season. He tore an ACL in practice last week. And then the other guys that have been out, Tony Yelk will be back this week which is great news for us. Johnny Smith and Bob Montgomery played last week and will definitely be ready to go again this week. Henry Poullard, who got hurt during two-a-days, is back and has been a very valuable special teams guy for us."

"Jordan Carstens is day-to-day. He did not need surgery and that's great news. We'll see how things go with that. He's got intangibles of toughness and quick heeling, and those always enter in with a guy like Jordan Carstens. I wouldn't rule him out of anything and I'm not about to right now. The good news is there will not be any injury. If there would have been surgery with a major injury, he would have been done of the year."

"Oklahoma is a fantastic football team. They have athleticism, speed, experience and talent. Every award that's out there in college football for individuals, they seem to have a player on the watch list, and deservedly so when you watch them on tape. Lombardis, Outlands, Thorpes, Biletnikoffs, Heismans – they're all there."

"It's one of the most talented football teams I've coached against, and they're playing with great confidence. They've only lost four games in the last two and a half seasons, so the confidence, momentum, talent, their system, and the program are hitting on all cylinders right now."

"I want my players to cherish the chance that we have and relish this opportunity. It's a great opportunity to coach and play against the number one team in the country. It sure isn't like we haven't played great competition. I think this is our eighth ranked team in the last 12 games that I've coached here at Iowa State. It seems like it's getting to be the norm around here. They are number one and are sure playing like that. They're explosive, fast and have team speed all over the field."

"We're going to correct the mistakes from the Northern Illinois game. We were less than two minutes to go in the game, on the road against an undefeated ranked team and it was a one-point game. We had our chances, but I'm going to still accentuate the positive and there were many of those to build on as we begin the Big 12 race."

On status at guard with Montgomery's return:

"Bobby Montgomery will start. It means so much to have him back. I don't know who was happier, he or the coaches or his teammates, as far as his return last week. He played longer and more in that game than we thought he might. It was kind of getting the feel from him each series or when he went in with how much he was going to play. He played very effectively when he was in there and did a good job.

"But we did play Seth Zehr a lot. He and Aaron Brant are two freshmen, one a redshirt and one a true freshman, that will battle it out for that other spot right now. Seth really played well. Aaron is our starter, but with the way Seth played in that game, it's going to be a real good competition for number one. He's really coming on and I'm real proud of him."

On dealing with rash of injuries in program:

"It's frustrating, no doubt about it. We all deal with that in college football. There are going to be injuries, and some years are more than others. This is one of those years. We have been fairly lucky in recent years. There have not been a lot of major injuries. Most of them have been confined to minor ones for the most part, but this year it's been a bit different. There is nothing we can do about it, other than support them, care about them and don't forget about them.

"The kids with injuries that will be back, make sure they're still involved mentally, take care of themselves physically and do all the rehab they can. Then the ones that are out for the season, those are the ones we've got to stay closest to sometimes and show the most support for, because it's easy to lose your focus academically and your connection to the team when you're not out there practicing everyday."

On ways Sooners have gotten off to 4-0 start:

"It's fast starts and being explosive offensively. They lose a great back from a year ago, yet they've still got talented backs to go in there. That group of receivers we'll go against this week are the best, as a unit, that we've coached against since I took the job here. They've got tremendous speed and are playmakers. Then Jason White is playing with such great confidence. He's not making many bad throws and his accuracy is fantastic. Offensively, they are really doing a good job. Their offensive line is very athletic and talented. It's hard to get back there and get to White.

"Defensively, they have kind of set the bar in the Big 12. Kansas State and Texas have been great, but year in and year out, Oklahoma's defense really seems to be as good as there is in college football. They can explode on you at any time. And then when you have the return guys that they have and the plays they can make in special teams, it creates a lot of headaches."

On strategy against Oklahoma punter Antonio Perkins:

"If he happens to return one for a touchdown against us, I promise you we won't be kicking it to him again. We may not try to kick it to him the first time. The chance you take by directional punting or saying you're going to kick them all out of bounds, you could end up getting a five- or 10-yard shank, and you don't want that because then you give that explosive offense real good field position. To kick it right down the field against a guy like that, we're crazy to do that. We will try to control it and limit the places he can run with the ball."

"On our end, we've got to continue playing well on special teams. It's one of the real factors in the game. We clearly won the kicking game in the first two games, and clearly lost it in the Iowa game. We felt like we clearly won the special teams at Northern Illinois. We had more return yardage on punts and kickoffs, our punt unit did a good job overall and protected much better, we blocked a punt and were 5-of-6 on kicks. This will be a great challenge this week. To have a chance to win this game, we're going to have to win the kicking game."

On Bobby Stoops' returning OU to prominence:

"He prepared himself well for that job by working at some great programs. He was at Iowa, Kansas State and Florida. He was as ready as anybody I've ever been around, seen or knew to be a head coach. The cupboard was not bare. I remember the defense we played against before Bobby got there was still in the top 10 in the country. There were some players. There always has been and always will be.

"Oklahoma is a place that traditionally can recruit as good as there is in America, because of that success, tradition, winning and national notoriety, exposure and national championships. But you've still got to do it, and he did that. He did that and brought in a great staff. There's no doubt he rallied the Oklahoma Nation, past, present and future. He's a great coach."

On referring to last season's game with team:

"We're not addressing it or talking about it. They got on us so fast, blocked a punt and jumped all over us. It was an ugly game from an Iowa State standpoint, so I haven't even talked about it and don't intend to. It was a real poor game and performance on our part, yet we did have some guys that played real well individually. Jordan Carstens and JaMaine Billups played outstanding football, but it's a team game and our team didn't match up with their team. But that's in the past and it's a new year. We're looking for different results this year."

On chance to match up with number one team:

"This is why we came to Iowa State, and that's why we came to Iowa State and that's why I recruited those players. Don't duck, don't hide. I know a lot of people are writing an obituary right now for the game Saturday night. That doesn't mean we have to agree with it, or agree to die. We don't think we're dead around here. We had a couple losses against ranked teams. Let's match up and play as good as we can play. When that games over, let's know that our commitment to excellence and winning is no less than what Oklahoma brings."

On outlook at running back with Rutland out:

"(Michael Wagner) is our starter. We went into the game last week with Rutland as our guy. We weren't going to have a second series, or third series rotation. He was our guy and got off to a great start. We'll do the same thing with Wags this week. He's our starter, but Stevie Hicks will be ready to go. Brian Thompson is our number three.

"We're back to musical chairs, as far as Hiawatha being out of the picture. But Mike Wagner is our starter and I trust in him and believe in him. He's playing really good football."

On Sooner team compared to last year's:

"It's four games into the season, but what I've seen, it's a better team overall. They were a great team last year and won lots and lots of games, but there is a little bit more to this team. Are they more impressive? Yes. Are they a little scarier? Yes. Do they seem to have more playmakers and speed? Yes.

"When you lose a guy like Lance Mitchell at linebacker, and they don't seem to miss a beat and don't look a bit different with the guy that steps in there, that tells you about the talent and depth at Oklahoma."

On getting Johnny Smith back at cornerback:

"It's great to have him back. We missed him. There was good competition last spring and in two-a-days when it was Anthony Forrest, Ellis Hobbs, Johnny Smith and Harold Clewis. They were really battling. Hobbs moved out as one of the clear starters and you see that every Saturday, but the other three were really in the mix. Johnny's back now. He was out for quite some time with the sprained knee.

"He has been so valuable to our program, is unselfish and loves this team. He wants to help. He's never been arrogant, but has always been confident. He, Hiawatha and Marc Timmons all came in at the same time, and it's a special thing. I really love Johnny. He's one of the kids most admired in our program by players and coaches alike."

On importance of improvement in turnover margin:

"I think we ended up with 26 last year, which was not bad. But so far this year, we have been slow on that. I think we're fifth or sixth in the conference from a turnover ratio standpoint, but that's because we haven't turned it over very much and not because we forced a lot of turnovers.

"We teach it, coach it, make them conscious of it, we put it on their reminders, tests and up in the locker room. Coach (John) Skladany talks to them about it all the time. We do drills all the time where we're trying to force turnovers, and will have a turnover period in practice where we're working drills trying to emphasize it. It's not like we haven't had some good hits that wouldn't force some turnovers, either, because we've had some good, physical tackles in our first four games. Hopefully we'll get off to a good start this week."

On O-line returning to preseason form:

"Just getting them all back together, Marty Fine can go out there and coach the same guys for the first time in quite a while. It's great to have all those kids, but especially Bobby Montgomery. Matt Bockes is back. Collin Menard missed practice time and was limited to PATs and field goals. I think this is as healthy as we've been in the offensive line and we're going to need that."


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