FB Insider: Nebraska

Iowa State has dropped five games in a row, including three in the Big 12 Conference after last weekend's 21-point loss to Texas. Our football insider discusses where ISU sits heading into a difficult tilt in Lincoln, Nebraska against the Huskers.

CN: We're looking for signs of life in the midst of a five-game losing streak, so let's start with a positive angle for a change. You had to like the way Austin Flynn took being benched when he got back in the game in the second half. He really took over and the offense responded. What do you think was going through Flynn's mind during that first half while he was standing on the sidelines?

Bruns: I'm sure as a compeditor he was waiting for the chance to get back out there. You can say you don't want someone to play poorly to get your job back for the good of the team, but the natural tendency is to want to play no matter what it takes to get the opportunity.

CN: As a player, especially a quarterback, can being benched give you a new perspective on things?

Bruns: I think it took the pressure off Austin for the first time this year. He didn't have to come in and do anything outside of what he was comfortable with because the first half was darn ugly.

CN: Some fans wonder if the coaches waited too long to pull Cris Love, but if you're going to start a guy don't you at least have to give him a half to prove himself?

Bruns: Hindsight is 20/20, but I thought the middle of the second quarter would have been enough based on how things were going. Certainly, they made a good decision at the half and I think waiting that long was justified given the fact that our offense has been inconsistent all year, no matter who was in at QB.

CN: At times it's not been pretty for the Cyclones over the past year, but was that first half performance on offense as ugly as it's been during this slump?

Bruns: That half was the ugliest offensive football I have ever seen at ISU. Even before Mac, the Cyclones always had good offenses. That one was just ridiculous.

CN: Another sign of life was the running of Stevie Hicks, especially in the third quarter. He ran with good vision, got some yards after contact, and showed that shallow cut that all of the good runners have. Was that finally the Hicks the fans have heard so much about?

Bruns: I think Stevie looked great on a couple of drives in the second half. He had some nice cuts right at the line, ran for three or four, cut again and then dragged people for two more. He has a lot of promise and is only a freshman, not a junior or senior.

CN: How much of the improved running in the second half was Hicks and how much of it was the much-maligned offensive line?

Bruns: I think they were doing a better job sustaining in the second half. Stevie was making cuts at the line of scrimmage, not in the backfield as has been the case for a lot of the year. You'd like to see that cut being made 2 or three yards down field, but it was definitely better.

CN: Speaking of the offensive line, what did you think of the freshmen guard tandem of Seth Zehr and Aaron Brant?

Bruns: They make a lot of mistakes I made as a freshman. It is natural for them to be a little out of position at times. Offensive line is extremely difficult as a freshmen not only because you are still developing as a man, but also because you have to think about your technique instead of being able to excute it automatically. They have a ton of promise and will continue to improve to the point of being All Big XII calibar or better, but we are going to struggle offensively with them having to play 70 snaps a game as freshmen; that's no knock on them, the league is just too tough.

CN: Was the blocked field goal the fault of Adam Benike or did the offensive line just get manhandled by Texas' defensive front on that play?

Bruns: There was a good deal of penitration up the middle of the line, really right over the snapper which is supposed to be of limits. The kick was also a little low so I think it was a combination of the two.

CN: In the first half against the Longhorns, ISU had seven possessions but ran just 25 plays. That makes it three weeks in a row that the offense has really put the defense behind the eight-ball in terms of field position and time of possession. Is this simply not going to improve until the offensive line does?

Bruns: It all comes down to productivity, in whatever capacity you can get it, on first down. Obviously, you'd like to be able to run the ball to get that consistency since that is our offensive model as dicated by Coach Mac when he took the job. The offensive line is stuggling, so you have to be creative as a coordinator to try and find something that gets you those four yards.

CN: Defensively, the one thing that disappointed me happened in the fourth quarter. After the Cyclones cut the Texas lead to 33-19 with a long drive, the defense then surrendered an 85-yard drive in three plays to give the Longhorns another touchdown. What happened there?

Bruns: I think it went back to the drive before. We needed to get a stop on a couple of key plays and didn't. for some reason, the defense made a lot of those plays early in the game and just couldn't come up with them down the stretch.

CN: Despite the injuries and schedule, there are still several Cyclones out there every Saturday who have played winning football in the Big 12 the past three years. Is it just me or our some of these guys not making the type of plays they were expected to make in order to compensate for the adversity?

Bruns: I think your seniors have to play the best football they can possibly play in order to win. It goes back to 4 and 5 years of development and training to maximize your potential. We have a lot of guys playing outstanding football as seniors and a handful that aren't. Everyone has to play their best ball on the way out the door.

CN: One upperclassman who gives you everything he's got is Jordan Carstens. Despite playing on a leg and a half, he was out there giving it his all against one of te top programs in the country. What kind of message does that send to youngsters like Jason Berryman and Brent Curvey?

Bruns: I think it sends a good message. Jason and Brent already know how to play hard, that is obvious in watching them. It is a different level to play hard when you are beat up and injuried.

CN: A year ago the Cyclones pummeled Nebraska by 22 points and both teams finished 7-7 in 2002. A year later, the Huskers are back among the nation's elite and in the driver's seat in the Big 12 North, while ISU has struggled. What's happened to both programs in the past year that has led to each taking such divergent paths?

Bruns: I think we all would have enjoyed Nebraska's schedule a little better than ours. Aside from that, they had a lot of talented freshmen playing in last year's contest. I knew they would improve this year. We'll be better next year as well.

CN: What kind of atmosphere should Flynn expect in his first trip to Lincoln?

Bruns: I never had the pleasure of playing Nebraska in Lincoln, and was only there once since I was hurt both times we were on the road there during my career. The place is as loud as anywhere in football and the fans do a nice job of making it hard when you are on offense. The ones near your field position go crazy while the others take a little break until you get to their end of the field. It is a tough place to play. The key is getting first downs; you have to keep getting first downs to get good field position and keep the crowd quiet. Nothing earth shattering, just first down after first down.

CN: How much will last year's whipping figure into the Huskers' motivation this week?

Bruns: I'm sure they've been looking forward to this all year.

CN: I think the key matchup in the game is ISU's defensive front against Nebraska's offensive line, since that will decide how the Huskers run the ball and ultimately how long ISU stays in the game. Do you agree?

Bruns: You always want to force Nebraska into 3rd and long. They still haven't quite figured that one out yet.

CN: What are you keys to victory this week against Nebraska?

Bruns: First downs on offense and great play on first and second downs defensively.


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