Iowa State vs. NIU Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State concludes the non-conference season in Ames Saturday morning against Northern Illinois. Head coach Dan McCarney previewed the game with the local media during his weekly press conference Tuesday morning. Here is a complete transcription.

Opening comments:

"Our MVPs on defense were Tyson Smith, who had seven tackles, a tackle-for-loss, a couple sacks, and a couple of hurries; and Ellis Hobbs, who had five tackles, a sack, and a hurry. On offense we didn't have any MVPs. We had a lot of guys play well and play solid, but there was no MVP performance. Caleb Berg was our MVP on special teams. He keeps getting better and better. He's one of the many freshmen that have hit the field for us. Our special teams captain for Northern Illinois will be defensive back Nik Moser, who is not only playing really well at safety but is also doing a great job on special teams."

"We're extremely disappointed in losing the game on Saturday, but very encouraged by a lot of things that we saw. There is no doubt we improved as a football team even in losing. We will definitely pull some things from that game that will help us this week and the rest of the season. We're really looking forward to the upcoming game."

"Greg Coleman will definitely play at fullback this week. Bret Meyer will definitely start and Austin Flynn will play. Both of them are doing a lot of good things. It's pretty obvious that both of them have a lot of improvement to make and a long ways to go, but they are clearly doing a lot of good things."

"Luke Vander Sanden, Brent Curvey, and Austin Flynn are all fine and will definitely play. Tony Yelk and Cephus Johnson – it's day-to-day and week-to-week."

"Northern Illinois is a tremendous football team and have won 11 of their last 14 games. They were 23-20 with 19th-ranked Maryland on the road. They pulled out a great victory over Southern Illinois, which is ranked number one in I-AA right now. They're a real quality football team when you watch them on tape."

"(A.J.) Harris is a tremendous football player and a big, strong, physical back. Even though they have four new coaches and two new coordinators, I don't see a whole lot different from last year in what they try to feature, their style, and what they emphasize. They don't turn the ball over much and are an attack 4-3 defense. They play with great confidence all the time, and it's a team we lost to last year."

"I have tremendous respect for Joe Novak and the job he's done. They won 10 games last year and beat Alabama, Maryland, and Iowa State. For two years in a row they've won their side of the conference."

"It's a real important game. Can it be the defining game for our season? I don't know. But as far as I'm concerned, it's the most important game on our schedule right now. We've got to do everything we can to try and win this football game going into an open week."

More on Coleman:

"He wasn't screaming, crying, in depression, or yelling at the coaches. We thought he might play this year. But a lot of that was because of the emergence of Tyease Thompson, who really learned the system and played with great confidence. Jason Scales missed a lot of practice during camp, and when he did Greg got a majority of those of reps. That's when we decided we were probably going to play him. Then Jason got healthy, so from a running back standpoint there is no doubt that Stevie Hicks, Tyease, and Scales are our top three backs.

"But Greg's a Big 12 football player and deserves to be on the field this year. He will play some at fullback. He may be the best blocker we have at fullback, but he needs a lot of work and reps."

On quarterbacks and not turning ball over:

"Bret's been the best that we have when you look at two-minute, practice, scrimmages, and games. You saw the tremendous job he did at the end of the half against Northern Iowa. We like both quarterbacks and we trust them. Both of them will play again Saturday. Both of them are over 50 percent and don't have any interceptions or fumbles, which is unbelievable. We built this program on trying not to turn the ball over.

"Over the last six seasons we're number one in the country in fewest amount of fumbles. That's something you build on. We have a good system. To have a chance to win games you have to protect the football and respect the football. If you can come out of that environment Saturday and not turn the ball over one time offensively, then you have the chance to be an offense that should get better and better."

On inability of that offense to score points:

"We're real disappointed, because we had some good drives the other day when we came away with nothing. We not only didn't get in the end zone, but didn't get the points on the board with our field goals. That's really important. We've got to really improve on that.

"And in a tight, defensive game like the other day, they turn it over once and we don't turn it over at all, you've got to convert when you get down there. It's not always going to be touchdowns, and that's why Brian (Jansen) or Tony Yelk, whoever's on the field, has to do a better job. We can't go 1-for-4 and expect to win many close games."

On big difference in rush defense this season:

"It's just two games, but it's a great start. I think it's the best since 1958 in a two-game matchup. Those are good backs, good offenses, and teams that won 10 games last year. I think we're better at linebacker. When you take (Jason) Berryman out before the season started, and then Cephus and Curvey out the other day, those are three of your best four defensive linemen. Yet we're still playing pretty good defense and rush defense.

"We've been able to play a few more guys and have more depth. Our defense came out of last year knowing that, even though it was a disappointing season, there were a lot of times where we played good defense. If we had any kind of support from our offense and special teams, we would have had a chance in some more games.

"We didn't desert what we were doing. I didn't fire my defensive coordinator. I believe in John (Skladany) and what we're doing. Then all of a sudden we're leading the league in a number of defensive categories. It takes talent, ability, a good scheme, a staff that knows what it's doing, and then some guys that can come in and play.

"Dobbins has clearly helped our rush defense and defense overall. Being able to play some more guys has helped greatly. You see a lot of defensive backs on the field and that keeps guys fresher.

"And then it's just the whole approach to the season. It was just sickening season last year and the memories sicken all of us. Whether they just got here a few weeks ago or they were here with us last year, it should motivate you to give us a lot more."

On Northern Illinois' new tailback Harris:

"I think he's very similar (to Michael Turner) in a lot of ways. He's big, fast, tough, and gets a lot of yards after contact. He's an excellent running back. He's 19th in the country right now after two games, and that's going against two teams that won a bunch of games last year. I see a lot of similarities. He makes guys miss.

"They used three running backs in the first quarter the other day, and they feel like they have good depth at the position. But Harris is a real quality football player.

"Fortunately for our defense, these good backs of ours they go against in practice every day will help us. We're going to have to be great tacklers, as we were Saturday for the most part in Iowa City."

On NIU's program not being one-year wonder:

"They have gone 8-4 and 10-2 over the last two seasons. There is no question in my mind that this year they'll have a real good year. They've done a real good job of recruiting and blend in some newcomers. But they still have a lot of veterans. Many of those guys played last year. They're a physical bunch and know how to win. Once you've had that kind of success, it's a little easier to get those new guys and transfers to buy into what you're doing. Joe (Novak) has a great program right now, and they'll be a factor in that conference all year."

On Huskies' quarterback situation, with injured starter Josh Haldi and backup Phil Horvath:

"We don't see any difference between the two. They're going to feature the same things. They're a real good rush offense and can throw from the pocket or outside. They're great in ball security, and had one of the top turnover-margin offenses in the country. It's hard to get the ball from them. We have really looked at that and addressed it, knowing that we can see either one of the quarterbacks.

"When (Haldi) was in the game for the first three snaps of the Maryland game, they came out and started doing the things they always do. Nothing changed when Horvath got in there and started quarterbacking. Now he's got two games under his belt. This time of year there are no rookies. They don't have a rookie, they have a veteran that's played two games."

On tall receivers Todd Blythe and Jon Davis:

"We haven't had that since we've been here, not two of them like that. The great thing is they have a lot of improvement to make. Those guys can get a lot better than they are right now. They're freshman and sophomore playing their first significant time. They're really hungry to learn and want to get better. Being a complete receiver is not only catching the ball, but being a physical blocker and a real good ball security receiver. They have bright futures ahead of them."

On surprising play of defensive line:

"I did not expect them to be this dominant, with the guys that have been out of the lineup. If everybody was here, then I would have thought we could. But we have had to start pulling guys out of there, so I think they've gone a little beyond what I thought they could through two games.

"Nick Leaders is really outstanding. Curvey played real well until he got hurt, and then Tim TeBrink stepped in and played well. Tyson Smith has been our MVP two weeks in a row and has played really well. We expect a lot of good things out of them.

"Eight sacks is good. We're putting an emphasis on it. We were ridiculously low last year and had eight for a season. That's a joke and inexcusable. It's poor defense, period. When you go through an entire season and can only get eight sacks, that's ridiculous. We clearly have made a lot of improvement in that area."

On rushing ball better against NIU:

"It will be a real challenge. They are an attack 4-3 defense and they come up after you. There are tackles-for-loss and they're physical. We're not going to go through a season like we did last year running the football. We've got to be better and have to challenge some guys. We had some guys do some great things blocking on Saturday, and had some guys that got physically beat up. We've got to play with better pad level, better fundamentals, and have to be more physical.

"I won't use the excuse that that's one of the best front sevens in college football, which they are. We've got to do a better job. We can't go into games one-dimensional – which we did last year – and expect to get to where we want to this year. We've got to be able to run the football.

"With what I've seen from my quarterbacks, receivers, and our protection in that game Saturday, we're going to have a chance to throw the ball this year and get better at it. But if you go into games as a defensive coordinator and they're not physical, can't knock you off the ball, and can't run it, that makes your job a lot easier. We can't let that happen. We're going to keep the accelerator down on this football team, especially with our offense running the football."

On need to focus during game and not the trash talking of the last game with Huskies:

"We emphasize it every week – play with great tenacity, intensity, emotion, enthusiasm, but do it right. The game is played between the lines. Keep your mouth shut. Play with class. Make people proud of you when they watch you play. I don't have any tolerance for foolish penalties. We're off to a pretty good start there, and only had one on defense, two on special teams, and one on offense against Iowa. Teams that win consistently are going to be low from a penalty standpoint.

"But Northern Illinois is going to come in here confident. They already beat us last year and play with confidence, which is at the heart of their program. They're going to come in here ready to beat Iowa State."

On memories of last year's game in Dekalb:

"It was a hard game to lose. They had already beaten Maryland and Alabama, and everybody in the country was talking about Northern Illinois. It wasn't like it was a collection of 24 slappies that beat Iowa State that day. It was a pretty good football team that beat us that day. My greatest memory is way beyond the loss seeing Hiawatha Rutland have one of the ugliest injuries I've ever seen, and Jordan Carstens go down. The injuries that day tore my guts out."

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