"Stevie Hicks did a real good job," said McCarney, who spotted the White squad 21 points to start the game. "There were three or four runs in that scrimmage that made it look like he has a chance to be special. We need to see more of that, more often. He's got durability, toughness, ability, and is a big back that needs to continue to lower his center of gravity. He is really a quality running back."
Much of Hicks' work last season came on his own behind a lackluster offensive line, so it had to come as a surprise when the Cyclone back credited the group in front of him for his opening run.
"Anybody can take the ball and run down the field, so I still felt like I had something to prove," said Hicks. "The first run was all the offensive line."
That should be a good sign for ISU, because its ground game proved to be the only reliable way of moving the ball Saturday. In their final spring audition for the starting quarterback job, Bret Meyer and Austin Flynn suffered through their fair share of ups and downs.
Meyer completed just 9-of-21 passes for 84 yards for the Cardinal team, and watched one of his throws get picked off by Caleb Berg in the end zone.
"I think it definitely could have been better," said Meyer, who has been looking to unseat the incumbent starter Flynn. "I'd like to have a few passes back and had that interception. But I thought I throw some good balls on a couple corner routes, and the option pass worked well for us. I'll take this experience. It was the first time to get out there and play in front of people in the stadium. It feels good."
During stints with both the starters and reserves, Flynn was slightly better, and completed 6-of-11 passes for 97 yards. He added 53 rushing yards and a score. Cris Love completed 9-of-18 passes for 64 yards. However, the only quarterback to throw a touchdown pass was fourth-teamer Kyle Van Winkle, who hooked up with Andy Kohler on a 60-yard scoring strike.
But much of the talk centered around Meyer and Flynn, who looked to get a starting nod heading into summer conditioning.
"What you saw today is really the way it's been most of the spring," McCarney said. "When I say slight edge, that's really what it's been. It's been very even most of the way because they've all made plays, some good decisions, and sometimes some bad decisions. But in the end Bret's had an edge, but we're a long ways from making that final decision right now."
The young group of receivers Meyer and company had to choose from also built some momentum. Todd Blythe became Meyer's go-to receiver on the Cardinal team, catching six passes for 73 yards in the game. Ryan Baum and Milan Moses combined for nine receptions and 93 yards on the White team.
"We have a lot of new faces at wide receiver, and I thought overall we caught the ball well today," McCarney said. "You see Andy Kohler with some size, height and ability coming off a knee injury. Then with Todd Blythe and Jon Davis we have some tall receivers. Milan Moses played with a sprained ankle today and I was proud of him. We lost every receiver that played practically, and are starting over from scratch. Those kids did a nice job."
The offensive line played without the likes of Luke Vander Sanden, who coaches believe came down with mono. Vander Sanden missed practice time earlier this week with a sprained wrist, but McCarney indicated he could have played with the injury on Saturday.
Despite the fact it paved the way for Hicks' 164 rushing yards, McCarney said the offensive line still needs a lot of work in the summer months.
"There are definitely some strides being made there," ISU's head coach said. "Physically, that may be the unit that needs to show the most improvement between now and when we get started. We need to get stronger and more physical, and that's a lot with Matt McGettigan in the weeks and months ahead."
The best word to describe the Cyclone defense is steady. The unit came up with just one turnover, and the game saw 645 yards of combined offense, but John Skladany's group played a part in the offense's inconsistency.
"I wish we would have gotten some more turnovers," McCarney said. "We had chances at four or five of them today, but in the end we did what we needed to and got into some great game situations. We've got a long ways to go, but I think we made some real strides this spring."
Starting linebacker Brandon Brown led all defenders with eight tackles on the day, while Dominique Flower paced the reserves with six tackles and a pair of pass breakups. Jason Berryman again stood out for the Cyclones, tallying seven tackles to go along with 2.5 stops for loss and two sacks.