Football Insider: Texas Tech

Iowa State is reeling from consecutive losses to ranked teams Oklahoma, Northern Illinois, and Iowa. Our football insider discusses the state of the program and looks ahead to the Cyclones' evening matchup high-flying Texas Tech on Saturday.

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: Are there any postives that can be taken from a 46-point loss?

Bruns: I think the young defensive front played well considering they are all freshmen and sophomores. The punt team looked good since Oklahoma didn't try to go for a block and Tony had time to boom kicks out there; it was good to have him back on the field.

CN: Do you think Oklahoma ran up the score with that late touchdown?

Bruns: I think they were playing to finish the game. They had their second team in and you can't blame them for scoring. I also don't think they were just trying to run out the clock.

CN: One decision myself, and many fans, found curious from an ISU perspective was leaving quarterback Austin Flynn in the game so long. Of course, Flynn finally exited after taking another vicious hit. Do you think Flynn was left in the game too long or did you agree with him still being out there?

Bruns: I was surprised he was still in the game at the start of the fourth. You want to put your best guys out there to try to win, but Austin was struggling too, so I thought maybe they would go with Chris or Waye to see if they could get a spark.

CN: Another curious decision was Coach Stoops re-inserting standout returner Antonio Perkins -- presumably to pad his stats -- with the game out of reach. Perkins was then hurt on the play. What did you think of the circumstance?

Bruns: I absolutely thought it was to pad his stats, and I think it was a bad decision by a coach that rarely makes bad decisions. I think he will remember the result as a coaching lesson.

CN: What impressed you the most about Oklahoma?

Bruns: Obviously, their defense is outstanding. I was however very impressed with Jason Whyte and the efficiency of their offense once our defense started to wear down. Chuck Long called a very good game as well.

CN: The last two years the Sooners have defeated ISU by a combined score of 102-10. Is that indicative of how far the ISU program still has to go to win a Big 12 title?

Bruns: I really didn't feel like this was the landslide last year was even though the final score was worse. I think we did some good things in the game, but our lack of sustained drives offensively killed us.

CN: Luke Vander Sanden could miss several weeks with another injury. How much a blow is this for the offensive line?

Bruns: I think it does hurt. Bob just gets back into the mix and Luke goes down. We need all the players we can get in a long Big XII season.

CN: Do you see the offensive line improving at all? If not, what do you think needs to be done? If so, can you explain to the average fan what you see that gives you optimism?

Bruns: There are only certain things you can do this time of year. Technique is very hard to learn during the season because of the emphasis on assignments and you need to just try and get the guy across from you blocked. However, assignments and nastiness can improve during a year. We struggled to pick up more complex blitzes and that can be improved. The biggest thing I want to see is a nasty group of angry people doing everything they can to prove all the doubters wrong.

CN: How much of a loss was not having Jordan Carstens, and as a former star player yourself can you talk about how tough it is to sit out a game against the #1 team in the country?

Bruns: It was a big loss not having Jordan in the game because he does his job consistently. However, I thought Brent Curvey came in and did a great job for a true freshmen against good offensive linemen.

Unfortunately, I never got to play against Nebraska, at Nebraska (I was recovering from knee injuries both years). You always wonder if you could have made a difference. It is not a fun feeling, especially when you lose.

CN: Fans want to know if the injuries and the schedule are just too much for this team to reasonably overcome this season. What's your take on that?

Bruns: I think the schedule is much tougher than our injury situation. I don't think anyone should be counted out at any time. This team has a lot of good football left in it, and I think will continue to improve.

CN: Are you amazed at how continually optimistic Mac is in the face of such adversity?

Bruns: That is the way he is and it is a big reason I came to ISU. Mac knows what needs to be done to take the program to the next level and will make it happen.

I'm gonna go on a little rant here: I was amazed at the number of people turning their backs anonymously on message boards. They are no better than the Hawkeyes calling for Ferenz's head after our game with them last year. They have no perspective or loyalty to a guy that has nothing but loyalty to them. If you want to call for Mac's head, call me and we can discuss it in person. It's B R U N S and it is an Ames number.

CN: What do you think of the numbers B.J. Symons is putting up at Texas Tech? Considering it's against legitimate competition like N.C. State, Mississippi, and Texas A&M, do you think he should be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate or is it all the system?

Bruns: I think they system definitely helps you have those types of numbers, but he is obviously a special player. If they keep winning and he keeps playing like that, I would put him number one if I had a pick.

CN: Flynn is going to miss two days of practice this week to attend his grandfather's funeral. As a player, is it tougher to mentally and emotionally move on from a personal loss like that or overcome missing two days of game-week preparation?

Bruns: That is too hard to say and is a very personal comparison. However, the combination of both will make it a difficult game for a freshman QB. Over 90% of what a quarterback does is mental.

CN: How do you defend the Red Raiders' passing attack?

Bruns: The same way we did last year; take away the long ball and tackle well one-on-one at the edge of their formations.

CN: What is going through the players minds after a 46-point loss on national cable television? Are their daubers down or are they eager to get out there and battle again?

Bruns: I was always ready to play again and get the taste out of my mouth. I'm sure this year's team is no different.

CN: When you've been through a streak of injuries and tough opponents like ISU has going back to last year, how hard is it not to get discouraged or to resist thinking you're just not good enough?

Bruns: I think you are at a Division 1 level because you believe you are good enough. You have to think that way to stay on the team and retain your starting spot everyone else is gunning for. The problem is that natural human tendency is to start to grumble and get down on your teammates or coaches or lunch or dinner or those damn shoelaces that keep braking. It's times like these when everyone has to remember that what will allow them to overcome is being accountable to yourself and the guy beside you and doing you job the best you can. If you are the best player you can be, and believe in the guy next to you, everything else will take care of itself.

I rarely miss practice or conditioning or even playing in games against Ohio or UNI. What I miss are the guys. I miss my teammates that bled and sweated and fought beside me. No matter what you do, you can't have those times back. Winning and losing are temporary. All you can do is put everything into making yourself better every single day. It's not the end of the world if the Cyclones don't have a win; the sun still comes up Sunday. It is the end of the world if they don't love coming into that locker room and seeing each other.

CN: What are some keys to victory for the Cyclones this week at Texas Tech?

Bruns: We need sound defense with good tackling and the offense has to have an attitude that no matter what happens, they're gonna score. It wouldn't hurt to have the ball actually bounce our way once if it pops out.


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