Iowa State vs. Colorado Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State will open its competition against Big 12 North Division foes Saturday afternoon in Boulder against Colorado. Head coach Dan McCarney previewed the game with the local media during his weekly press conference Tuesday morning. Here is a transcription.

Dan McCarney:

Opening comments:

"We are disappointed, obviously, with the game Saturday against A&M. We spent all day yesterday watching the tapes, and getting through all of that. We have put the game behind us. Offensively, we did a lot of good things. You look at three points and might think we're just horrible and stink. But you see 85 offensive plays, 23 first downs, zero fumbles, zero penalties, 2-for-2 in short-yardage situations, but in the end we score zero touchdowns. But did we do some things better than we did down at Oklahoma State? No question. It was a real good Texas A&M defense.

"Our protection was better and I think we picked up the blitz better. But we got down there inside the 10-yard line once, at the 10 once, and at the 17. When you're down in those kind of situations, you've just got to find a way to get in the end zone. We didn't convert in those kind of situations.

"When you have that much possession time, that many offensive plays, and that many first downs it shouldn't equate to three points. Defensively, we were very disappointed. It was clearly our worst defensive game of the season. Our defense had been a real constant and anchor through the first four games, but we clearly were not that on Saturday. I was disappointed with every phase of our defense.

"We weren't focused and had more mental errors in one game than we did in the previous four. We didn't play with the kind of fire, enthusiasm, emotion, and heart that we had in the first four games. Every defensive coach and players knows it. It's extremely disappointing, but we'll play better in the weeks to come. I know that, because we've done a lot of good things too."

"There were no MVPs on offense or defense for the A&M game. Nobody really gave an MVP performance. Tyease Thompson was our special teams MVP. He had 119 yards on four kickoff returns. He really has a lot of speed, athleticism, and courage. We're really proud of him."

"We've lost to two teams that are ranked in the top 25 in the country. Their records combined are 9-1. They're two outstanding football teams. That's a fact of life and the way it is. We've got to put those two behind us and get after an excellent Colorado team. They lost to the same Oklahoma State team we did a week ago, but they still won their first three games. They lost to two teams – Oklahoma State and Missouri – that are both undefeated in conference play.

"Colorado is always well-coached and have good players. We know it's going to be a real challenge for us this week. I'm very impressed with Joel Klatt at quarterback and Bobby Purify as the running back. Even though Oklahoma State went out and won that football game, we know that they're a very capable and dangerous football team. We know we're going to have a great challenge."

On this being a must-win for both teams:

"I don't know about make or break, but from our standpoint there's no doubt our backs are against the wall. I can't speak for Gary (Barnett), but they've lost their two conference games like we have. We didn't want to start that way, and neither did they. You look at the Big 12 North and there are no undefeated teams in the conference from an overall standpoint. It still is really up for grabs. It will be a very important game for both teams."

On what it's going to take for recovery:

"We've got to do a great job of taking care of the football. We didn't have any fumbles, which is great, but we threw two interceptions. We had finished the second quarter of that game on defense pretty darn good. We had two or three really good series. Then the offense comes out on the first possession (of the second half) and throws an interception.

"We give them the ball with a short field, and those are things that we just can't do. There is no reason to do that, and Austin (Flynn) understands that. We don't need that to start a second half. Those are the things you can't do if you're playing a team you're evenly matched, and this was a really outstanding team that has great talent and is nationally ranked.

"We've got to play better and eliminate our mental errors, especially defensively from Saturday. We've got to have young kids that understand this is a fast, physical conference and it's going to be that way every Saturday. We have to step it up and not make some of the same mistakes we did Saturday and win in this conference. There is no doubt in my mind we can be a lot more competitive as the Big 12 season goes on than we were in the first two games. I think the opponent had a little bit to do with that too."

On last two games being closer than score indicated:

"We had four fumbles a week ago against Okie State and they're undefeated and ranked in the top 15 or 16 in the country. If you take care of the football – and that's a big if – that game could have been a four-quarter game. We played good enough defense in that game to keep us in it and have a chance.

"But Saturday our strength was not our strength. We didn't play good defense and didn't tackle well. They came out and threw the ball a lot more in the first half than we thought they probably would have. But they really executed well in their throwing game. We didn't tackle as well, didn't cover as well, and didn't play with the edge that we did in the first month of the season. I believe in my heart that we can be much more competitive in the conference in the weeks to come."

"In order to have success, you have to have confidence. To have confidence, you've got to have some success. It's like a dog chasing its tail; you've got to do those things. We thought we did some things in that game, but the bottom line collectively is that we have to do an even better job. When we get inside 20, 25, 15, and 10-yard line we can't give up tackles-for-loss. We have to be more efficient.

"You can imagine the confidence it will give our football team to get back down there and score. We scored almost 50 points in the Northern Illinois game. The offense had some help, but that's a lot of points to score in a game against a team that will go on and only lose a couple games all season. But we've got to get back down there, make some things happen, get down in the end zone, and give our running backs some opportunities inside the red zone. It will give our offense a great shot of confidence."

On concerns of back-to-back losses in Big 12:

"I worry about the attitude and morale of my staff. I worry about the attitude and morale of my team. I worry about the attitude and morale of the players that aren't playing on Saturdays. I worry about the guys that had played real well so far in the season and did not play Saturday. I'm concerned about them and address them. That's what a head coach has to do.

"But we haven't lost seven, eight, nine, or 10 games. We've lost three and are still 2-3. We're not where we want to be right now, but did we think we'd be sitting here 5-0 after five games? No, not with the young guys playing on this team. But we're clearly not accepting what's happened the first two weeks of the conference race. We've got to be better this week, do some things better, and build on some of those things I mentioned.

"Our special teams and kick return team was outstanding. We blocked our fourth kick of the season. I really like those things. Our punt team overall was outstanding. They didn't get anything on their punt return game at all. Troy Blankenship has really stepped in and gotten better each week. Those are positives. We hit a field goal. I'm not going to make any highlight tapes, but we hit a field goal. All of those things we'll build on.

"Then here are the things we need to shore up; here are the weakness and problems. We need to solve those problems in order to win some games."

On Troy Blankenship and production in punt game:

"Right now he's clearly our starter, no doubt about it. Tony (Yelk) did punt the ball a little bit last week, but Blank is really consistent. I know we're going to get people trying to block them all season long. The protection under Terry Allen's leadership with that unit, has really done well. They're trying to come after them each week. The two things that I think have helped the punt team the most is the guy snapping it – Landon Schrage – and the guy punting it. Schrage is firing fast bullets, and Blank is getting it off fast. The efficiency of our operation is as good as it's been since I've been here. I'm really proud of both those kids."

On what he'd convey to fans that are stunned from losses:

"First of all there is great character in the program. Each player is hurt like the fans hurt, watching these last two Saturdays. I think there is tremendous pride in this program. We want to win and hurt like they hurt. There isn't anybody in here passing it off or letting water run off their back saying, ‘So what, it's a loss and let's move on to the next one.' It tears all of us up. I sense that throughout my staff and team.

"We don't like losing. This is the opportunity that we have – what are you going to do about it? How are you going to respond and rebound against a real quality opponent this week.

"I appreciate their support. The atmosphere was fantastic Saturday night. I love walking down the side of this building out into the stadium. I'm sorry we couldn't have done a better job for the fans that were here, and played a better game. They continue to show a lot of faith in me and this program for a long time, and I'm going to continue to appreciate the support they have in us."

On if he sensed a letdown coming in:

"We had great preparation. I loved the practices and meetings. I sensed we were really locked into this gameplan during walk-through. But in the game we didn't play as well as we need to defensively. A&M had something to do with that. That quarterback is going to raise hell in the Big 12 all season long, and that's a real athletic and physical offensive line. They've got good receivers and players.

"But we have to play better than that. I expect more out of our defense, and so do all of our defensive coaches. I think our defensive players expect more out of themselves. We've all got to play better on Saturday."

On if he thinks altitude will play a key Saturday:

"I don't think so. In all of the times I've been out there, I've never had any player run to the sideline and ask if we could lower the elevation, and that they're gassed. We tell the kids that it's no big deal. Of course there's a big sign as you get towards the stadium about how high it is, sending a message to everybody that you're going to be sucking gas from the first series on. When we won out there, and even when we lost out there, I've never sensed any problem."

On last Saturday's action in Big 12:

"I don't know if it's surprise. It seems like there are no surprises anymore. Everybody has equal opportunities. Was I surprised at the score of the game in Lubbock? Absolutely. We know that defense and the players. We never would have guessed a score like that in a million years. We experienced that a year ago. We didn't give up 70, but still gave up an awful lot of points. It's a very efficient, fast, quick-strike offense.

"But I'm not into guessing, gambling, or trying to figure out who's got the edge, who should be favored, and who shouldn't. I'm so used to being an underdog here that that's what we prepare for nearly every Saturday. But common sense will tell you that (the Big 12 North) is up for grabs."

On the play of WILL linebacker Brandon Brown:

"He has played good football and is a real unselfish guy. He's one of our favorites on this football team. He's a senior that's hoping to play more football after Iowa State. He's trying to get the most out of his senior year right now, and I'm real proud of him. He's never been a guy that has super speed, quickness, or size. But he's playing real quality football for us right now. He wasn't an MVP Saturday, but he did a lot of good things in that game. I haven't been disappointed with him yet this season.

"Brandon is in the right place at WILL linebacker. That's his best position and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now. We're going to need a big season out of him in the weeks ahead."

On progress of newer players Greg Coleman, Jason Scales, Milan Moses, and Terrance Highsmith:

"It's still a transition. Greg Coleman is really improving and getting a grasp of our offense. We're definitely going to play him. Right now, from what our asking our fullbacks to do from a blocking standpoint, he's the best fullback we have. Tony Johnson has had an injury that's limited him some. Greg Coleman is doing a better job of blocking and that's a fact, so we moved him up.

"Greg Coleman, Jason Scales, and Milan Moses are three of the freshmen that, in the last two weeks, have really shown lots of improvement. And that's what you hope for those young guys. Scales got a lot of playing time Saturday, even though he didn't get any carries. He's a great competitor and will see more playing time. Milan had three catches and got more playing time Saturday.

"With Terrance Highsmith, it's a matter of making the transition, learning the position, being more efficient, and eliminating mental errors. He has to not only grasp the little picture of the wide receiver's job, but the big picture of our offense. I'm not disappointed, and we know this would take some time."

On progress of Tony Yelk:

"I think he gets closer each week, and he did do some punting in practice last week. But he's not 100 percent. When he is 100 percent, he'll be a great boost to our kicking game. The trainers, doctors, and I am not going to ask him to go out there until he can kick it as hard as Tony Yelk can."

On play of Luke Vander Sanden:

"He did a good job Saturday, and has played two Big 12 games now. You just hope that he can stay healthy. He's clearly our best center. He was not just disappointed, but was upset and mad and angry after the game on Saturday. He knew if we moved the ball like that we should have put up more points. He's a great leader, has a tremendous passion, and knows his career is over when he finishes at Iowa State. He's a guy that is really trying to make the most out of every snap, meeting, practice, and game. There is some real urgency there."

On the sentiment of fans and pressure after conference setbacks:

"I'm used to it. I know when you do have success there are going to be expectations. But nobody has higher expectations for me than me. No one. Not the people I work for, not my wife, not my players, not my coaches, no one. I drive myself hard every day. I don't like going into press conferences after losses. I don't like going into locker rooms after losses. I don't like going home after losses. That part of it is not home.

"I promise you I'm doing all that I can as a head coach to get back to winning again. We've lost our last couple of games after some real positives the first three weeks of the season. After our first three games we could all say we had shown some strides over last year, but as you shift to these first two conference games it's hard to find those things. As a head coach I can find some little things, but in the end with the scores, you could wonder if this team is any better than last year. I still believe that we can be and will be, but let's start looking like it and playing like it.

"I'm not mad at all with the fans saying we need to be better than that and let's be successful. No one wants it more than I do. I can assure you of that."

On any reactions from fans while out in town:

"I don't hide from people, whether we won big or lost big. I still look people in the eye. I try to be a head coach that players, coaches, and fans can be proud of. I know one of the most important ways can be proud of you is by winning games. I'm going to try to make people proud of me in the coming weeks."

On his thoughts of current rules for recruiting:

"There are a lot of people out there that really want to push for an early signing date. I'm not for that right now, and I think I've explained why in the past. I think the rules right now are very fair. The thing that's really changed through the years is how many kids are going out unofficially to go look at schools, trying to formulate who they really want to consider.

"That never used to go on at all, and now it goes on all over the place. This past week we had some unofficial visits. I'm not a big proponent of that, but if a young man and his family want to make early evaluations, early trips, early decisions then we're going to do what we need to do. I like to be able to spend more time with them than I was able to do this weekend. When you're coaching a game and trying to prepare a football team, it's tough.

"But I think the rules are as fair as they've ever been. I think there are fewer violations out there around college football than there's ever been. I know in the Big 12 Conference, I can look head coaches in the eye in our meetings and feel good about who I'm recruited against, and that they're doing it the right way with integrity and character. I know in this conference, I feel real good about it."

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