Iowa State vs. OSU Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State opens the Big 12 Conference season in Stillwater Saturday afternoon against Oklahoma State. 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:

"The MVPs for the Northern Illinois game were Todd Blythe on offense, Matt Robertson and Nik Moser on defense, and we decided to name our whole punt block team for MVP on special teams. It was the biggest play of the game. The game balls in the game went to Nik Moser and Matt Robertson, and Ellis Hobbs on special teams. The special teams captain for Oklahoma State will be Steve Paris. He's had a really good season so far, both as a safety and special teams guy.

"The Big 12 race begins this week. Obviously it's a tremendous challenge for us going down to play Oklahoma State. I think they've won 13 of their last 14 home games, and are coming off a Cotton Bowl appearance last year. Les Miles said in the spring that this was his most talented, fastest team. It sure looks like it when you watch them on tape. They've done an excellent job of recruiting, both in Oklahoma and Texas, where it looks like about 98 percent of their kids are coming from.

"Oklahoma State is just a fast, physical, athletic football team. You speed and athleticism when you watch them play in these first three games. They have just dominated the first three opponents and the most impressive one is watching what they did to UCLA at the Rose Bowl in the opening game. That's never easy to do, and was a great victory for those guys.

"They have playmakers all over the place, and are number one or number two in the country in lots of things. They haven't turned the ball over in three games and are the least penalized team. Morency is leading the nation in rushing, and they're fourth in the country in total rush offense. They're hitting on all cylinders.

"Defensively, they're very athletic and physical. I think with the speed they have in the secondary, we're going to have a real challenge back there. It's really a tremendous secondary. It's a great challenge, but we're looking forward to playing this game and measuring where we are in the conference."

On injuries:

"I think we're good. Luke (Vander Sanden) will definitely start this week, barring something that happens in practice. He's back and practicing and looking good. All of the other guys that had minor injuries or practice injuries in the last week, they'll be back. It's just day-to-day with Tony Yelk and Cephus Johnson. They're both further ahead than they were a couple of weeks ago and are definitely on the mend. But it's too early in the week to tell if they're going to play."

On how Yelk's injury is healing:

"I don't know, you'd have to ask Tony. I trust his evaluation of him being ready to go or not. When you're kicking the ball for PATs, field goals, kickoffs, and punting it's an explosive move with your leg. In order to do that, you've got to have your strength back and the soreness out. He's starting to punt and has done that this week. We'll gradually bring him along and see how he feels.

"There isn't going to be a sixth year for him. He's already been redshirted and I haven't heard of anybody getting a sixth year for a pulled muscle. He's got to play. The clock's running on him. We're hoping he can get back this week."

On Oklahoma State's offense being similar to K-State's or Nebraska's of a couple years ago:

"It probably is in some ways. They're 85 percent run through the first three games, and that's really high. That's probably even more so than K-State or Nebraska, even though it's similar in some ways from a percentage standpoint.

"But they're still very capable (of passing), and Woods is a real good quarterback and athlete. He's got a gun and they've got good receivers. About the time we decide to put 10 guys on the line of scrimmage and forget the pass, they'll burn us all day throwing the ball. We know they're capable. They're not rushing 333 yards a game without having a good plan and good people doing it. We're going to have to be very physical defensively and great tacklers.

"The thing you see with number 33, is even though you're in good position, have good leverage on the running back, or defeat a blocker, he'll just out-run you because of his speed. He is a real talented running back. He was almost a 1,000-yard rusher off the bench last year, so he didn't just spring onto the scene this year. He's just picked up where he left off."

On comparisons between Morency and NFL rookie Tatum Bell:

"In some ways they are similar. Bell was a high draft pick and there's no doubt this one is. Morency is a great running back. Barring injuries, he'll play a long time in the NFL. That's another high draft pick. You can see it. He's got speed, athleticism, will run over you, and is physical. He's an outstanding football player."

On importance of limiting OSU's big plays:

"We always try to do that defensively. The bomb is one of the seven things we measure, and we don't want to give up many that are 25 yards or more. We want to limit the big throws and big runs. That means you're sound, there are not many mental errors, you're good tacklers, and good in not letting people behind you. Then you have to be relentless screaming to the football. But he's a big play waiting to happen every time."

On Cowboys passing attack:

"We'll see some throws. They've had 27 throws in three games, so we know they're going to throw the football. Northern Illinois had some success throwing the ball against us. We've got to be ready for all of that. But the bottom line is we've got to match up with them physically. They know what they're doing and have a good system. They won eight games two years ago, nine games last year, and are 3-0 and ranked in the top 25 this season for a lot of reasons."

On depth heading into conference play:

"We tried to play more. The first thing you want to do is trust those guys. If you put somebody out there, we've got to be able to trust them. We talk to our guys all the time. We don't want to throw you out there and have a big drop-off. I think we have a few more guys doing that right now, but we're not where we want to be.

"We went through our team and ranked each guy through the first three games, and there were a few major disappointments. If you're in this program for a year, a couple years, or three years and you're not showing up on Saturday, something's wrong. We're very honest with our evaluation. We have a lot of guys doing a good job right now, but one of the things we really addressed on the off week were the guys that weren't doing anything to help us on Saturdays."

On matching up against Oklahoma State's defense:

"They've been solid. They're not in the top 10 from a statistical standpoint, but they're playing lots of guys. They have good depth at Oklahoma State. You see their interior guys and they play about five different guys. It looks like they have four starters at linebacker. They roll a lot of people through there.

"We have to be balanced. We can't be hard-headed and just say this is the way we're going to be. We have to do what we can do best. We'd like to have balance and be able to have a good rush game. But we can't keep going into it each week and saying we're going to be 60 percent rush and 40 percent pass if we can't be effective doing that. Hopefully we'll improve rushing the football in the off week, but if not then we'll have to throw it more."

On Cowboy defensive backs:

"Their secondary is outstanding. It's the best we've seen this year so far, no question. They lost some outstanding defensive ends last year, but they've got a lot of talent in their secondary. It goes back to the job they have done recruiting. I'm sure the bowl success and playing in Houston gave them a lot of awareness, publicity, and recognition down in the Houston area. They have done a great job of recruiting. We knew a lot of those kids they recruited and signed. You're seeing it now in the program. They're a much improved program since we played them last."

On ISU wide receiver Todd Blythe:

"We feel like he's one of the best playmakers we have in our offense and have to find ways to get him the ball. Even if there is coverage and guys right there with him, he still feels like he can go make a play. We've got to continue trying to get him the football. He's the real deal. He's not going to have three touchdown catches every week, but let's put him in positions to make big plays for our offense. But his confidence level is similar to a guy that's been in the program a couple years. He plays with great passion, enthusiasm, and confidence."

On traveling to Oklahoma State:

"The last time we were there we were able to pull one out in the last few seconds of the game. It's very much like Iowa City, even though there were not as many people in the stands. It will be a packed house and the stands are close to the sideline. They're right on top of you. There is a lot of emotion and enthusiasm from their fans. They've got something special going down there. You don't win 13 of your last 14 home games without great support. It will be a real tough environment for our team."

On positives and disappointments thus far:

"When you go through with a freshman and sophomore quarterback, and you have two turnovers – one on a hail mary – in three games it's unbelievable. Those are three teams that won 10 games last year and know what they're doing. To come out of it 2-1 with a chance to be 3-0 with a team that didn't win a game in the league last year, this team is playing like a team that has a real passion and something to prove. That's a real positive. They have bought into our approach for the season.

"The biggest disappointment is we haven't forced any fumbles or recovered any through three games. I've never been on a defense where that's happened. It's almost unheard of. We need to do a better job of that. Offensively, we felt like we could be a little further along running the football. We felt we could be further along than we are right now, and have more yards per carry than a three-yard average. We're challenging everybody. That's probably the most disappointing thing.

"But I have a gut feeling about this team – whatever happens with this record – they will come to practice every day wanting to do some things that last year's team couldn't do. They want to take steps toward bringing it back. I see that every day from these kids."

On offensive line's play:

"I think there is improvement. Luke Vander Sanden has missed a lot more snaps than he's played in. With his presence, it will be good. Brian Lutter has done a good job filling in, but Luke is better than him. Luke being out of the mix hurt us. He took 14 snaps against Iowa and none against Northern Illinois. He has missed a lot of time. Getting him back in the lineup will help us. But we're still not where we want to be. We have some guys that have not played nearly as well as we think they could through three games. And hopefully Stevie Hicks will play Saturday like he's been practicing the last two weeks. We need more production from the running back position."

On outlook heading into Oklahoma State:

"You're always looking for a spark and a big victory. This game is no bigger or less important than the games that will be ahead in the Big 12. They're all so important right now. Every team in the league has had a winning season in the non-conference. We all want to be practicing in December. We're no further ahead or behind than anyone in the Big 12. We're all on an even plane heading into the Big 12."

On Cowboy special teams:

"They're outstanding. You watch Darrent Williams on tape and can see why he's going to be an extremely high draft pick. He's one of the best corners in college football and punt return guys. He is clearly one of the best punt returners in college football. The NFL guys will be all over him, as far as evaluations. Come April his name will be called early. He's the real deal.

"Then they've got a true freshman that's come in and done a great job for them (kicking). When you go 17 out of 17 on PATs and three out of three in field goals, how do you improve? You just keep doing that. Their kicking game is real sound. Their coverage, protection, and returns are all real good.

"(Special teams) is when you really see the depth of a football team. You see the speed they have on their football team. That's as much of an improvement as I've seen in this football team since the last time we played them."

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