FB Insider: Kansas

Iowa State has dropped eight consecutive games and has hit one of the lowest points in recent history, after coming out flat and losing to Colorado Saturday. The latest setback leads up to Saturday's tilt at Kansas. Our football insider discusses the Cyclone football program as it stands now, and the hope there is in the future.

CN: How do you explain the team coming out and not competing from the outset on Senior Day?

Bruns: First I'd like to say that I'm going to keep it real today. A lot of people have thought I've been too guarded in my points this year in the midst of a very tough season. I have in fact been somewhat guarded, because it doesn't do anyone any good nor does it honor people you care a great deal about if you are reactionary to all the things being said on message boards and call-in shows...no offense Steve ;). I also believe there is a bunch of good ahead for us and that it is only a matter of time until we are back in the hunt.

Now, back to your question. I think it shows there are a lot of problems on this football team. If there are little fissures and any cracks in the armor, you'll see them split wide open at the end of a Big 12 season. The game is too hard for everyone to not be on the same page from the onset.

CN: Jordan Carstens said after the game he really wasn't sure what's wrong with the team. Is that just a non-responsive answer for media consumption or do you think the players really are that shell-shocked at the season they've had?

Bruns: I'm sure Jordan feels that there are things that are wrong, but when you are as close as the players and coaches are it is extremely difficult to be able to have a strong amount of perspective. I've been on teams with problems and, looking back, I could get a feel for what the problems were. But at the time it was too hard to put my finger on it. You just go out and play as hard as you can week after week and let the chips fall where they may.

CN: In your wildest dreams, even after the narrow win against Northern Iowa in the opener, did you think this kind of a disappointing season was possible?

Bruns: I felt like this was a season to go either way...but had questions dating back to what we saw at the end of 2002. I felt like something like this was on the way for a while, but hoped against hope we would come out of it.

CN: Considering the increased expectations for ISU football -- because of the unprecedented success Dan McCarney has had -- is this the low-point of the Mac era?

Bruns: It certainly doesn't feel good. When we struggled early on (1997 comes to mind), we were doing everything we could to improve as players and coaches. From the outside (where it is difficult to make a good assessment), it appears this team doesn't have that feel, and I think that is the thing that is disappointing. There are a bunch of individuals on the sideline and in the box doing everything they can to win football games and improve, but the team as a whole has struggled with chemistry.

CN: Can you give Cyclone Nation reasons for optimism for the future?

Bruns: I have a bunch and the first one is the biggest of all: DAN McCARNEY. Coach Mac believes in his players and WE believe in him. The man is a winner from the word go, and there is no one at this point in college football that is a better fit for our university. Mac cares more about this team than he does about himself, and that is the measure of committed character.

We have a ton of talent. We have some of the most talented and motivated young guys I've ever seen. This is a football team on the rise, and in two years will be a force to be reckoned with. There are not many people who care more about ISU football than me, and I absolutely know Mac and the Cyclones will rise well above where Sage Rosenfels, Ryan Harklau, James Reed, Reggie Hayward, Ennis Haywood, and Marcel Howard left our program.

CN: I think a key question for the program is this: are the mechanisms in place for the young, talented offensive linemen ISU has recruited to develop and realize their potential? If the answer is no, then changes will have to be made to make that a yes after the season. Do you think that is a valid question and if so what do you think the answer is?

Bruns: Obviously, this question is a little loaded. I will not discuss position groups specifically because the answers point fingers. I'm not here to point fingers or evaluate staff. Mac will evaluate every position coach, and I'm sure he is well into the process. If you are not in the office or on the field every day, you have no right to say or think you know who stays or who goes because you don't see the whole picture.

CN: We get more and more e-mails and message board posts from fans who claim they're spotting players gripe at each other and even coaches on the sidelines during the last two home games. Have you noticed that yourself and what do you make of those reports from ISU fans?

Bruns: I have not witnessed anything, nor do I know anything about any specific division on the team. I do know that when we were struggling during my time in number 63, certain people had altercations on the sideline. So nothing would surprise me.

CN: This week Mac said the "nucleus" of his coaching staff will return next season. What do you think the "nucleus" of the staff is?

Bruns: I don't know for sure and, like I said above, it is not fair to speculate. I do know this: coaching here is not easy. It takes a passion for one or more of the following: Iowa State University and its success; every single player in your position group and his improvement, but more importantly his growth as a person; pride in your work and effort every single practice, film session, and phone calls; and ultimately, a desire to win with class. Coaches grow, improve and develop just like players. There are a bunch of guys here I admire because they have improved and have a passion. If one or more of those things aren't happening, it will be transparent to your players.

The leaders on a football team are leaders because they have an unwavering belief in what they have been coached to do. They expect nothing but the best from others and demand even more of themselves. If they do not have a coach they can put every ounce of belief in for whatever reason, real or imagined, they cannot lead effectively. Even if the coaches do care deep down but it is not evident to the players, they will struggle. There is a lot of upside to wearing your heart on your sleeve.

CN: As a player at this point, is it tough not to just start marking time and want the season to end?

Bruns: That is tempting, but if guys have class and believe in themselves they put those thoughts aside when it is time to go to work again. I had those thoughts, and I think all players do if they are honest with themselves. But when it is time to strap it up and go to practice and the weight room you do it because you care more about the team than yourself.

CN: How are the guys still having fun during an eight-game losing streak? Where does the joy of being a college football player come from if you're a senior that's used to winning?

Bruns: Being in that situation is not enjoyable. It tests character and heart. Football is about more than having fun; it is about life. I learned lessons that made me a better person, and not a dumb jock that had a good time. This game is too damn hard at times for a lot of people. I think it is absolutely wrong for people to criticize our players and coaches without having been in the war.

We had more success in 2000 than ever before in the history of Iowa State football—not to say we were the greatest team ever, but we did things no one had ever done. Even at the end of all that good, after so many struggles, it wasn't all that hard to put my cleats on the shelf for the last trip home. You have too many surgeries and too many rehab sessions in five years to make it a bed of roses to get up in the morning. If I could limp to the bathroom in under three minutes after getting up in the morning as a senior, it was going to be a pretty good day.

Yet you go to practice every day and push your body that much harder. People don't understand. That is why we respect and love each other so much; it's because of sacrifice. I knew everyone else was doing the same thing that morning, and they were doing it for me. The least I could do was give my best.

CN: Is pride enough of a factor to get these guys up to play the final two games of the season?

Bruns: I think pride and faith are important enough to make anything happen.

CN: What do you think about the way the quarterback position is being handled?

Bruns: I think they have all been inconsistent. It is a difficult situation for a coaching staff and for the athletes. The coaches are just trying to put the guy on the field who they think can help them win that year.

CN: If you were Austin Flynn, how would you evaluate your place in the program heading into next season?

Bruns: I think Austin and those close to him need to be careful in their evaluations at this point. It is extremely difficult to start in any league as a freshman, much less ours and much less at quarterback. He's a competitive kid with a lot of fire, but he's just a kid at this point. This sort of thing can push you either way. You can either choose to handle it like Adam Haluska, or you can handle it like a man.

CN: Give us your keys to victory this weekend at Kansas.

Bruns: Passion for the 'right way' and commitment to more than yourself.

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