Monday Musings

A revealing interview given by Jason Berryman's father is the primary topic of discussion in this week's offering, along with ISU's 13th straight Big 12 Conference loss at Colorado.

If you get the chance, and are tired of reading about missed field goals, I would strongly suggest checking out the interview that Jason Berryman's father gave to The Des Moines Register on Sunday.

In case you had forgotten, Berryman has now been incarcerated in the Story County Jail since the early morning hours of August 3rd, when he robbed two fellow Iowa State students. His family never posted the $25,000 bond for robbery, which is why he is still there. Berryman recently pleaded guilty to lesser charges as part of an agreement with county prosecutors – one of them still a felony – and will be sentenced on November 8th. He faces up to 11 years in prison, although Story County officials are apparently recommending just six months in a halfway house followed by four years of probation, according to Berryman's dad, Jewel.

Jewel, who is a high school history teacher in Houston, admits to the newspaper that both he and his son are frightened about his sentencing. Jewel also asserts that Story County prosecutors are making an unfair example of his son to avoid any sense of special treatment for high-profile athletes, a charge the county predictably refutes.

Jewel even went so far to tell the Register: "It's not that I couldn't afford to get him out. It was because of my own conviction that there are outside forces involved here. The bail and the charges against him were so serious for what happened, it made me feel there were elements against him there. If he stayed incarcerated, then those elements could not touch him again."

What exactly are these "elements" Jewel believes are marshalling their forces against his son? I don't know and the article never specifies what those are.

Elsewhere in the piece, Jewel refers to his 19-year old son as "still a kid" and asks if it's "worth putting a felony rap on a child that is going to haunt him for the rest of his life?"

That bit of over rationalization of the consequences his son faces surprise me, given that in the article Jewel points out that he once kept Jason from junior high football because of poor grades. He also has another son serving bravely in Iraq, and is proud of the strong spiritual beliefs he has instilled in his "church-going family."

I can sympathize with any parent facing a trying circumstance such as this one. However, in reality the blame for Jason Berryman's situation falls squarely on Jason Berryman. He made the choice alone to do what he plead guilty to on August 3rd, nobody else. I know it's tempting to say "he only got $4 out of the deal so go easy on him." But did Berryman tell those two ISU students "just give me $4." No. He told them to empty their pockets. His intent was not to just walk away with $4.

While we are not privy to the discussions father and son in the Berryman family have had since this unfortunate incident, I would humbly suggest that publicly trying to come up with mitigating circumstances for Jason's behavior or publicly urging the law to go easy on him for his transgression is not sending the right message. Nor is telling your son to remain in jail because of some grand conspiracy to take him down. Ultimately that takes the blame off of Berryman, who is solely accountable for his actions. Perhaps Berryman's father is sending a harsher, more disciplined message to his son privately? Let's hope so.

While Jason is accountable for his own actions, more mature adults aren't doing him a service with that kind of public posturing. Yet I don't think that Berryman's father is the only one sending the wrong message, if Jewel's assertion in the newspaper is accurate.

Jewel Berryman asks a question I myself have wondered since his son went from Big 12 Newcomer of the Year to just another Central Iowa prisoner in the span of just 11 months. Jewel wonders if his son would've not acted the way he did on August 3rd if the football program would've delivered more than a slap on the wrist for his plea down to fifth-degree criminal mischief 13 days earlier after destroying his girlfriend's windshield. He received a deferred sentence and probation, and was immediately reinstated to the football program.

Of course, it's tempting to point out that's an interesting stance on discipline for Jason's dad to demand given his previous wishy-washy statements defending his son in the article, but that still doesn't mean it's not a valid point. Away from home, without his family's safety net, Jason clearly struggled while dealing with his newfound fame on campus. Just ask his former ISU teammates, they'll tell you the same thing.

He was acting out, as we are all prone to do in different ways in such pressure-packed situations when we're in over our heads, and when he was caught ISU had the chance to send a tough message that might have steered him back on the path of the straight and narrow. Yet much like his father after-the-fact, the Cyclones passed, and you can draw your own conclusions as to why. Hindsight is 20-20, so I wouldn't be surprised if Dan McCarney – given his past admirable stances on matters of discipline – wouldn't do things differently if he had the chance to do it over again.

That's what makes the final portion of the article so troubling to me. Jewel Berryman says he has been assured by two members of ISU's coaching staff that Jason "still has a place at ISU." Jason Berryman plead guilty to a felony. Surely, we're not going to overlook that, regardless of the scenario, are we?

Remember the uproar over Iowa basketball's decision to reinstate Pierre Pierce last year? Well, he didn't plead guilty to a felony folks. While my Christian faith certainly tells me that Jason deserves a second chance in life, there is no obligation for ISU to be the instrument of his redemption. This would be his third chance with one of them being a felony, which is the magic word here. My advice to his father is to follow his instincts and urge his son to start over someplace else fresh when he's done serving his sentence.

I realize that you're not used to reading these kinds of editorials on websites such as this, which are intended to be rah-rah and promotional in nature. Yet, to me, some things are more important than winning, and upholding standards of character is one of them. We don't have fully endowed football scholarships at ISU, so I don't think I'm being too harsh in thinking that Jason has exhausted his last chance at the state taxpayer's, or ISU season ticket-holder's, expense.

Then again, I sincerely doubt Mac would even entertain bringing back a convicted felon, since last season he ran off two individuals – Brent Nash and Royce Hooksafter they were absolved of sexual assault charges. Perhaps Jewel was given that assurance before his son plead guilty to a felony, because that certainly doesn't sound like the Coach Mac I know, respect, and admire for the way he molds young men.

What do you think?

Mixed Bag in Boulder

ISU's performance in Saturday's 19-14 loss at Colorado was hit-or-miss.

First the hits:

  • It appears McCarney made the right move in handing over the entire offense to Bret Meyer. The redshirt freshman looked in control of the offense, when his offensive line allowed him to be. He made some great throws, including one dart that could've gone for a winning touchdown had Jon Davis reeled it in, and overthrew some others. Sure, his fumbled snap stopped an ISU possession deep in Colorado territory, yet those kinds are things are going to happen on the road with a freshman quarterback. Overall he played well, despite ISU's 0-for-5 performance in the red zone.
  • The running game returned, with Stevie Hicks eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time this season against a Division I-A opponent.
  • The defense forced turnovers that changed field position, and even altered the scoreboard. Perhaps last week's performance against Texas A&M was an aberration against a quality opponent, because in every other game this season John Skladany's group has played well enough to win.
  • The Cyclones showed grit in not giving up when they gave away 10 points early and later fell behind, 13-0. They also kept at it despite numerous special teams gaffes that kept giving momentum back to the Buffaloes every time ISU got on a roll.

Now the misses:

  • I'm running out of negative adjectives to describe ISU's special teams performances. If last season we were shooting Easter Eggs out there, this year we're strip-mining Christmas trees. One muffed punt is bad enough, but two in one game is a little bit like lightning striking thrice. Then there were the two missed field goals, one from 22 yards and another from 25. This is frankly an embarrassment to powder puff football, let alone to intercollegiate football at the Division I-A level. Meanwhile, Colorado makes a 53 and a 60-yard field. Those four plays were the difference in the game, and may ultimately be the difference in ISU getting bowl-eligible or not.
  • ISU continues to be unable to exert its will in short-yardage and red zone situations on offense. This has been a problem since Steve Loney and Nick Quartaro left, for whatever reason. It's not Barney Cotton's fault, since he didn't recruit the players he's currently coaching. He's tried everything schematically. He's tried fade routes, running the ball more, throwing the ball more, and I'm sure even prayer at this point. One of these days the offensive line will physically mature to the point of effectiveness in this area, and that's when ISU will start winning games like this.
  • This is still a team learning to win again, as Ben Bruns correctly pointed out in the post-game radio show, and in line to learn some tough lessons on what it takes during the process. For instance, a defense that performed admirably all game long surrendered a first down on a draw play on third-and-five that allowed Colorado to run out the clock. That was a stop we needed and didn't get. To be fair, I'd go into all the missed opportunities on offense…if I was getting paid by the hour.

One of these days this thing is going to click because I think the talent and character is there to win some games. Let's pray it's the next two weeks against Baylor and Kansas, because if it's not I fear fan frustration will reach the boiling point around here.

My Top 25

If I had a vote in the Associated Press college football poll, this would have been my ballot this week:

1. USC (6-0)…Last week—1…This week—beat Arizona State, 45-7…Next week—Washington (1-5).

2. Oklahoma (6-0)…Last week—2…This week—beat Kansas State, 31-21…Next week—Kansas (2-3).

3. Auburn (7-0)…Last week—3…This week—beat Arkansas, 38-20…Next week—Kentucky (1-5).

4. Miami, Fla. (5-0)…Last week—4…This week—beat Louisville, 41-38…Next week—at N.C. State (4-2).

5. Utah (6-0)…Last week—6…This week—beat North Carolina, 46-16…Next week—UNLV (2-5).

6. California (4-1)…Last week—8…This week—beat UCLA, 45-28…Next week—at Arizona (1-5).

7. Wisconsin (7-0)…Last week—13…This week—beat Purdue, 20-17…Next week—Northwestern (3-3).

8. Florida State (5-1)…Last week—14…This week—beat Virginia, 36-3…Next week—at Wake Forest (3-3).

9. Tennessee (5-1)…Last week—9…This week—beat Mississippi, 21-17…Next week—Alabama (5-2).

10. Georgia (5-1)…Last week—10…This week—beat Vanderbilt, 33-3…Next week—at Arkansas (3-3).

11. Purdue (5-1)…Last week—5…This week—lost to Wisconsin, 20-17…Next week—#12 Michigan (6-1).

12. Michigan (6-1)…Last week—11…This week—beat Illinois, 30-19…Next week—at #11 Purdue (5-1).

13. Texas (5-1)…Last week—12…This week—beat Missouri, 28-20…Next week—at Texas Tech (4-2).

14. Virginia (5-1)…Last week—7…This week—lost to Florida State, 36-3…Next week—at Duke (1-5).

15. Texas A&M (5-1)…Last week—22…This week—beat Oklahoma State, 36-20…Next week—Colorado (4-2).

16. West Virginia (5-1)…Last week—19…This week—beat Connecticut, 31-19…This week—Syracuse (3-3).

17. Boise State (6-0)…Last week—20…This week—beat Tulsa, 45-42…Next week—Fresno State (3-2).

18. Louisville (4-1)…Last week—18…This week—lost to Miami (Fla.), 41-38…Next week—South Florida (2-3).

19. Oklahoma State (5-1)…Last week—16…This week—lost to Texas A&M, 36-20…Next week—at Missouri (4-2).

20. LSU (4-2)…Last week—23…This week—idle…Next week—Troy (3-3).

21. Florida (4-2)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Middle Tennessee State, 52-16…This week—at Mississippi State (1-5).

22. Arizona State (5-1)…Last week—15…This week—lost to USC, 45-7…Next week—UCLA (4-2).

23. Notre Dame (5-2)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Navy, 27-9…Next week—Boston College (4-2).

24. Virginia Tech (5-2)…Last week—NR…This week—beat Florida A&M. 62-0…Next week—idle.

25. Alabama-Birmingham (5-1)…Last week—NR…This week—beat TCU, 41-25…Next week—at Tulane (1-4).

Dropped out: #17 Minnesota (5-2), #21 Southern Mississippi (4-1), #24 Missouri (4-2), #25 UCLA (4-2).

Honorable mention—#26 Iowa (4-2), #27 South Carolina (5-2), #28 Alabama (5-2), #29 Texas Tech (4-2), #30 N.C. State (4-2).

Handicapping the Heisman

The race is very fluid this week and right now nobody looks poised to separate himself from the pack.

1. Matt Leinart (QB-USC)…Carried the Trojans to a statement-win with an efficient, explosive performance against Arizona State. Also benefits from others' recent struggles in the spotlight.

2. Jason White (QB-Oklahoma)…Finally, the potent passing game he rode to the Heisman Trophy last season emerged just when the Sooners needed it most on the road in Manhattan.

3. Aaron Rodgers (QB-California)…Might be the most complete quarterback in the country, and could be the top pick in the 2005 NFL draft if he comes out early. Will his candidacy get enough TV exposure, though?

4. Kyle Orton (QB-Purdue)…From favorite to falling out of the race fast. His numbers are still Heisman-worthy, but quarterbacks are judged on wins in big games and his late fumble cost the Boilermakers dearly.

Waiting list—Alex Smith (QB-Utah), Adrian Peterson (RB-Oklahoma), and Vernand Morency (RB-Oklahoma State).

(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Iowa each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)

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