Special Teams Mishaps Prove Costly

Unfortunately for Dan McCarney and his reeling football team, Nebraska got off to its usual fast start against the Cyclones. But this didn't turn out to be the usual Iowa State road trip to Lincoln, as its defense pitched a shutout in the second half of a 28-0 loss. That was little consolation, however, for a squad that dropped its sixth consecutive game and fourth in the Big 12.

In falling to 2-6 this season, ISU was shut out for the first time since the 1991 campaign. The Cyclones managed just 230 total yards, many of which came on the game's final drive. Prior to that possession, ISU had spent only a handful of plays in Nebraska territory.

"It's definitely a low point for us," said Lane Danielsen, who made four catches for 37 yards. "Offensively, it's ridiculous. We didn't do anything. It's the first time we've been shut out since 1991 and that's very frustrating for us. Our defense played their heart out."

The Cyclone defense didn't reach the valley the offense hit, but would have liked to have a few plays and series back. In a decisive first quarter, Nebraska needed just three plays to go 79 yards for a two-touchdown lead. Isaiah Fluellen's 39-yard reverse through the ISU defense made it 14-0 with 2:53 remaining in the opening stanza.

That score came on the heels of a crucial blocked punt and 19-yard scoring drive less than four minutes earlier.

"We knew that regardless of what happened on the other side of the ball, we had to make more plays," said Ellis Hobbs. "Going back to the one drive they had, the three-play drive for the touchdown, other than that it's 0-0. We still gave them a lot of things out there, they drove the ball on us and we should have gotten off the field much faster. But at the same time, we thought we had a good day. It just wasn't enough."

Not having enough was particularly difficult for head coach Dan McCarney, who for once did not see his team get thoroughly dominated in Memorial Stadium.

However, his Cyclones did make their usual mistakes at inopportune times. Nebraska turned two blocked punts into touchdowns in the opening quarter, the second of which Josh Bullocks picked up and returned 26 yards for a touchdown. Both blocks looked eerily similar, as Husker defenders didn't use much trickery and came through on the outside.

Another play that turned out to be just as frustrating was an errant pass from Yelk to Steve Paris on a fake punt.

"For different reasons we got off to a bad start," said McCarney. "This week there was the punt team that was ridiculous. It had nothing to do with any scheme. Both of our wings just got physically overwhelmed when they came in to block punts. There wasn't a twist and we didn't turn anybody loose. We were right there blocking them, but they just physically overwhelm us.

"I called fake punt and we throw a dirt ball. (Paris) would still be running, he was so wide open. We got exactly what we thought, but just don't execute it. Our punt team really hurt us today, obviously. Three big plays were just real poor execution on our part. It had a lot to do with the hole we dug in the first half. That's so disappointing over here."

Both sides fought to an offensive stalemate in the second half, as Nebraska's run-oriented unit came to a screeching halt. A pair of turnovers would also help matters. Freshman Jason Berryman recovered a fumble after Nebraska found the red zone. The Cyclone newcomer also picked off a pass earlier in the second half. That turnover helped erase a Flynn interception that handed Nebraska possession at the Cyclone 42-yard line.

But the ISU defense refused to point figures afterwards.

"We don't worry about what the offense does, we have to worry about what we do," said Joe Woodley, whose seven tackles tied Brandon Brown for the team lead. "I think that's why we did a lot of good things today. We blocked everything else out and were fitting where we were supposed to fit.

"But we didn't get enough turnovers to win this game. This is a team game. The offensive guys work just as hard as we do. If your offense is having a tough time moving the ball, we have to step it up."

ISU now faces an off week before back-to-back home games against Kansas State and Colorado. While the week off will afford some players an opportunity to get healthy, it means another seven days for the team to reflect on its six-game slide.

"One good thing is we have a bye week," Danielsen said. "We've got some guys that are beat up. This has been a tough streak of teams we've played here. With some time off hopefully we can get our bodies rested up, have some good practices and get the offense rolling."

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