"It's always great to be back with you at the beginning of the season. I'm starting my 10th season here at Iowa State. It's game week and exciting for all of us. I got a good feel for the start of college football the other night. I got a chance to watch a little bit of the USC-Virginia Tech game. It sure gets the blood flowing that it's just about here and we're all anxious to play.
"I think we've had a real productive three weeks, with a couple weeks in camp and then while we were in class last week. I think we made a lot of progress. We've got tremendous respect for Northern Iowa coming in here. They finished 10-3 last year, and Mark Farley has done a tremendous job with that program. They've got 43 letter-winners and something like 15 or 16 players that have started before. We're looking forward to a great matchup here."
On importance of winning turnover margin:
"We've got to do a much better job. That's one of the things that we talk about and stress. Through some very successful seasons we were in the top half, and I believe there were a couple seasons we were in the top four in the conference from a turnover-ratio standpoint. We sure dropped off last year. It's respecting the ball and protecting it offensively, and doing everything you can defensively to force some turnovers, get a short field for your offense, and possibly score on defense. We're hoping to get back on track and be much better like we were in past seasons."
On defense's chance to help improve that:
"You never know until you play a game. We'll find out a lot more on Saturday. But I feel like we have a little bit more competition for positions, and we're building a little bit better depth. Defensively, we've got some guys coming back that have some good experience. But this is still a young team and we're going to be about as green as we've ever been going into an opening game. We know there is going to be mistakes made, and we're going to have to live with a few of those. We just don't want them making continued, repeated mistakes."
On starting positions being set on defense:
"Tim Dobbins has made a real good transition. Barring any problems at practice, a bunch of mental errors, or an injury in practice this week, Tim will start at MIKE linebacker for us. Tyson Smith can still either line up at WILL or rush for us, but I would anticipate him playing more at rush end this weekend. Brandon Brown spent his first couple years here at WILL linebacker and that's more of a home position for him. He's more comfortable there, likes it, and has had a real good camp since we moved him out to WILL."
On situation at quarterback heading into season:
"Of course Bret Meyer hasn't played at all and is a redshirt freshman that was on our scout team last year. You wonder why you're a little apprehensive. Northern Iowa's quarterback, Tom Petrie, has had a tremendous career and is a fifth-year senior with all kinds of experience. Our guy hasn't even played one down yet.
"But Bret has really made a lot or progress and will start. We'll definitely play Austin Flynn, and play him in the first half. It's been very close competition. All of the coaches and players alike have great respect for both of them. Both of them have improved. Whether we look like it or not Saturday, I think our quarterback position is in better hands and looks better than it did at any time last season."
On being one of four coaches to vote against instant replay for a Big 12-Big 10 matchup:
"I talked to a number of people, visited with the officials in the Big 12 Conference, and talked to other coaches. It wasn't a snap decision. Number one, coaches don't get to challenge any call that's made. Honestly, there is a Big 10 observer that would have the final say in everything. In a game of this magnitude, a Big 12-Big 10 matchup, I just don't feel real comfortable experimenting with something. So I declined. It has to be in agreement from both schools to do it. I'm glad it didn't work out and we're not going to have it for our game.
"The thing we're all concerned with is the length of games we can get into. We're all conscious of that right now with the television exposure and length of games. Then you start getting into challenges, appeals for plays, and how much longer games could go."
On different approach to naming captains this season:
"We're real pleased with the four that were elected last week. We felt with the youth of this team and the program coming out of last season that we needed more time to develop leaders, identify leaders, and give them a chance to lead. You can vote at anytime and guys might vote for guys because they're popular or played a lot. But we really wanted to identify some genuine leaders and give them more time to do that. In the end I think it was a great move for us. I've always done it in the spring the last few years and this year we waited until we got out of camp. That let our newcomers, which was about 27 or 28 of them, identify and contribute to the vote on who they wanted leading this team.
"I think they'll be great examples on handling adversity and success. They're the type of people that the fans in our stadium would love to have in their homes. They'll be great reflection of our program both on and off the field. I'm real proud of those guys and the job they're doing. I like the chemistry on this team and it starts with your leaders and captains."