McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the Big 12 media via teleconference Monday morning to discuss the Cyclones' loss to OSU, and look ahead to his team's home matchup with Texas A&M on Saturday. Here is a complete transcription.

Opening comments:

"We lost to an outstanding, nationally-ranked Oklahoma State team at their place. Les Miles has really built an outstanding program. It's players, coaches, the atmosphere, and the stadium. It was a very tough environment. We got beat by a real good football team.

"We bring Texas A&M in this week for our homecoming game, and they're one of the most-improved teams in the Big 12 and country. It's no surprise to any of us that know Dennis Franchione. He's a tremendous football coach. They're hitting on all cylinders and beat a really outstanding Kansas State team Saturday night. We're looking forward to getting back home and lining up against an outstanding A&M team."

On A&M's success playing or starting redshirt freshmen:

"I don't think it's that unusual. It seems like in recent years there are more and more young people that are ready to play. A&M has been known for decades to have some of the best talent in all of college football, and this year is no exception. They're right behind Nebraska for players in the NFL than anybody in the Big 12 Conference.

"You see a team now that's not only well coached, but has tremendous talent and team speed. They're about as impressive as anybody I've watched on tape this year. Whether they're redshirt freshmen or seniors, they're darn good players when they put on pulling on that Aggie uniform."

On A&M's improvement from last season:

"I guess I don't see anything they haven't improved on, to be honest. It's all phases of their football team. They're playing really good defense and making a lot of plays. They're not turning the ball over. I think they only have one fumble and zero interceptions on the season, so major improvement there. They present a lot of problems to your defense, because of the talent, speed, and playmakers they have on their offense. We have a short week to get ready for the game."

On problems Reggie McNeal presents:

"Where do you want to start? He is really a special player. He's got tremendous talent and looks very confident in what he's doing. I don't know what's scarier – watching him throw the football team with all of the ability he has, or watching him run it. Especially that last touchdown the other night against a really fine Kansas State defense, he showed about as much speed as anybody I've seen in this conference in all the years I've been here. He is really an outstanding player."

On Aggie defense:

"They're big, strong, physical, and fast. That's the way you want to play. They have athletic, physical defensive linemen up front. No question they've gotten some help through the J.C. ranks with a couple of linebackers. They're very impressive and getting after quarterbacks. I'm sure with the problems we had in protection Saturday, they're going to be trying to heat up my guys, too."

"We've got to do some things to keep them off balance. We've been struggling rushing the football. We made some improvement and did some things better in the second half with our offense Saturday. But A&M just present a lot of problems. We're going to have to be better in everything we do, because they're playing like the Wreckin Crew."

On any possible changes at quarterback:

"Bret Meyer will start Saturday. He's been our starter all season and will continue to do that. A lot of the problems in the pocket and fumbles had absolutely nothing to do with Bret Meyer. When you get blindsided, hit, sacked, or tackled the way he was on some plays, it's tough. We always teach protecting the football and had played three games without fumbling it once, but those three fumbles with Bret Saturday had very little to do with him being loose with the ball. He was getting wacked from all directions and our protection has to be a lot better to give him an opportunity."

On A&M's improvement since season opener:

"They're better tacklers and missed some tackles that night. They're very sound and are using a two, three, or four more guys from an emphasis playing standpoint. Some other guys are getting a little more playing time than they probably did that night. They're really playing outstanding football. When you talk about playing with your hair on fire on defense, they've been doing that the past few games."

On lack of North Division teams in rankings:

"I don't really have an answer and don't know that there isn't a dominant team. It's still pretty early and most of us have only played one game in the conference. It's really wide open. I know there are a lot of real good players and coaches in the North. Don't count any of the teams out from being a factor in the national picture."

On problems with protecting quarterback:

"It helps if you can establish a little better running game. We did some things in the second half a little better Saturday, and want to do that. We just have to be better, protection-wise. There were a couple mental errors and we just got whipped on some things. Guys have to be better in protection. We're not going to go in this week and throw in a whole new offense. We just have to be better. For the most part, in our first three games, we did a lot of good things in protection. There is no doubt Oklahoma State did some great things in heating up our quarterback and collapsing the pocket."

Evaluations of defensive play:

"We did a lot of good things. When you're put on the field in the seven-yard line, 18, 25, and 15 because of turnovers, that makes it really tough. I was proud of them in four real short fields. Two of those situations we were able to hold them to field goals. You're always looking for that. There were a lot of plays we played real good defense Saturday. We'll build on that. There were more things defensively we could pull out positive from that game than the other side of the ball."

On any new approach to offense with kicking struggles:

"We can't forget about our kickers. We've really struggled. We're hoping that we have a chance to get our starter back this week, with Tony Yelk. We'll see as it goes on. Without the consistency that you want, you think about it a lot more. We had a Adam Benike, who was All-Big 12, and we had Carl Gomez, who was a really good kicker. When you've had some guys in past years, it's not automatic and you don't it for granted, but you sure feel a lot better about coming out of there getting some points on the board. When you're really struggling there, you think a lot more about going for it on fourth down.

"If we continue to struggle in that, we're going to lean more towards four-down territory and staying on the field with your offense, trying to make it, and knocking it in the end zone rather than kicking the field goal. But we sure haven't given up on it. We were expecting more out of our kickers and hopefully we can show some real vast improvement in the next few weeks."

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