Iowa State vs. Baylor Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State faces its third and final Big 12 South Division foe Saturday afternoon in Waco against Baylor. Head coach Dan McCarney previewed the game with the local media during his weekly press conference Tuesday morning. Here is a transcription.

Opening comments:

"We obviously improved in a lot of ways out at Colorado. It was not an inept football team. It was not an inept football game. It was a hard-fought Big 12 game. That's the same team that beat Washington State on the road, Colorado State, and put up 450 yards against Oklahoma State. We did a lot of real good things. I'm proud of the improvement of our football team."

"I'm extremely disappointed we didn't finish that game. Uncharacteristically, we had problems with two dropped punt returns. It's never happened in a game since I've been here in 10 years, but it happened in one game. We missed a 22- and 23-yard field goal, while they hit a 60- and 54-yarder. That was the difference in the game."

"I thought our defense played one of the better games they have since I've been at Iowa State, and we'll build on that."

"Our MVPs for the Colorado game were Todd Blythe on offense. He had six catches, 135 yards, and a touchdown. He's one of the most talented, most impressive freshmen I've ever been around in my career. On defense, it was Ellis Hobbs. He had five tackles, an interception for a touchdown, and his coverage and technique was phenomenal all day. And then on special teams, Terrance Highsmith. He had a 32-yard punt return that was called back because of a block in the back. He had another 25-yard return and another 20-yard return."

"The health of the team is good. Kory Pence and Brent Curvey went down in that game, but will definitely practice this week and play on Saturday. Tony Yelk's status remains the same. I doubt if he'll play. We've talked about for weeks and weeks, but nothing's really changed. I don't think he'll be available. Otherwise, everybody else on the team is ready to go."

"We'll take every player that we can from the state of Texas. The first reason we're going down there is to win a football game. And if we can take some guys because of the job they did on the scout team this week, we reward those kids and if they happen to be from Texas, we'll do it. I've got 17 players on the team from Texas, with five starters, three backups, and a couple others that played. I know it will be important to those kids to try to win a football game."

"Baylor is a team that's been high and low, good and bad, good streaks and bad streaks, good quarters and bad quarters, which is very similar to us. The third quarter against Nebraska, they were scary on offense. There weren't any backups on the field for Nebraska's defense, and Baylor scored 21 points in a short span of time. But they didn't do it consistently throughout that game."

"These are two teams fighting for respect and some more credibility with their programs. I think it's going to make for a heck of a football game. We're looking forward to this. We want to continue to improve our program and team this week in practice, and hopefully it will show up down there Saturday and we can get a road win."

On Highsmith as punt returner:

"He's number one going into practice today, no doubt about it. Todd Miller has struggled the last couple of weeks, and it wasn't just Saturday. He struggled the week before. He's struggled from a judgement standpoint, letting the ball bounce, and fumbled another one we were able to get back. He's just in a little bit of a slump, but no one has more pride, cares about this team, and wants it more than Todd. But Terrance deserves a chance to be number one with his performance Saturday.

"The reason Terrance had been our backup is that he needed to be more consistent catching the ball in practices, scrimmages, and mock games since we started back in August. Lately he has been doing a real good job and was outstanding on Saturday."

On frustrations with red zone offense:

"It's very frustrating. If Barney Cotton has to play tackle and I have to play guard, we're going to do it. I don't care, whatever it takes. We need to knock it in the end zone, start scoring, and stop the non-sense. We look like a Big 12 offense between the 20s the last two weeks. You look at the first downs, yards, and productivity between the 20s. But then you've got to get down there and start making plays. It's getting old. We're just not scoring points.

"We have had 23 and 25 first downs, 80 and 85 snaps from the line of scrimmage, more than 400 yards last week and three hundred and some against Texas A&M. It doesn't equal the kind of points we need to be putting up. It's time, let's go, and start scoring when we get down in the red zone."

On approaches team has taken in red zone:

"We have tried just about everything, except maybe for throwing it back to the quarterback and running some reverses in the red zone. Believe me, it's not the calls. We need to go execute. There have been a lot of different things that we've tried down there. You can put up 25 different calls, but they're not going to make a difference. You've got to go down there and execute. When the heels of the offensive linemen get knocked back, and the heels of the defensive linemen don't, that's usually bad news for an offense in the red zone. We've got to do a better job.

"It's not like we haven't emphasized it, put a lot of time into it, and scrimmaged it. We have done all of those things. We need to do a better job of it, because it cost us the game in Colorado. You talk about two dropped punts, which were obvious, and two missed field goals, which were almost like extra points. But if we had done a better job in the red zone, we wouldn't have had to worry about missing short field goals. We need to go down there and score."

On what plans are for Austin Flynn:

"We keep his chin up and coaching the heck out of him. We need to make sure that he understands there is nothing in concrete. He needs to keep fighting for that number one job and be ready to go. Bret got knocked out of the A&M game and Austin had better be ready. He'd better keep trying to be number one.

"But we're not going to move him to wide receiver or defensive back. We'd like to try to get him on the field, because it's the same thing I said back in August – he's one of our top 13, 14, or 15 offensive players. You'd hate to have a guy like that standing on the sidelines the whole game."

On how kicking game factors into problems in red zone:

"It's right at the heart of the problem. Some of those kicks should be routine. There are a lot of variables involved, but if we would have kicked a few field goals, we'd be sitting here 4-and-2. But we didn't kick them and they did.

"It has a lot to do with strategy, and decisions I make within a game and throughout a game. Sooner or later we've got to start doing it. Hopefully it will be this week.

"It's not really been fair to those walk-on kids. They didn't come here expecting this kind of pressure, and having to play and perform when you've got Tony Yelk and Josh Griebahn as scholarship guys. But that's the role they were thrown into, so let's not be too hard on them and be patient. But let's also expect better performance."

On whether or not team continues to improve:

"There's no doubt we're making improvement. If you don't think that, then you're not studying the game very well and watching this team much. Over a year ago we have made a lot of progress. It's important that we put ourselves in position to win some games. The best part of improvement is how many games you're winning. But it's still been easy to see the improvement when you break the tape down and watch it like we do. It's real important that we continue that.

"I think you see a team where no one gave into any adversity Saturday. They fought valiantly and played with a lot of heart and courage until the last snap. There are some silly mistakes we've got to get cleaned up. If we do that, then we're going to have a real chance to win some games in the last few weeks."

On Josh Griebahn's status:

"I hope he'll be able to play. He hit the ball OK on Sunday night, and we'll take a look at him Tuesday through Friday. He had foot surgery and had a pin put in last summer. But he hasn't done anything other than rehab for months. But we'll take a look at him. If we feel like he's the best in practice this week, then we'll probably give him a chance on Saturday."

On play of Jon Davis this season:

"He's done a real good job. We're always looking for playmakers. He had a chance at having a huge day Saturday, and would like to have that one back. Bret made his best throw of the season, was hit right when he threw the ball, and threw a strike. Jon has to catch that ball, because he's still running if he does. There is a little bit of inconsistency there, and hopefully he'll continue to improve on those things. But Jon has done a real nice job.

"He's another one of the many freshmen and sophomores on our offense that are getting better every week. He's going to be around here for a long time, for years to come. He's really developed a complete game right now. I don't think there's any question our receiving corps of young guys are playing better than the veterans of last year did at any time in the season, as a unit.

"The future looks real good for our passing game if we can protect and do a good job of giving those guys an opportunity to make plays. Those are Big 12 quality football players that are just beginning their careers."

On getting Baylor's best shot this weekend:

"I don't think there's any doubt we will. It's their Homecoming game. I'm sure they've been waiting a long time to play Iowa State, and we've been waiting a long time to play Baylor. I haven't seen anything out there that says these are the two worst teams in the Big 12 on the field. We have five games to play, we want to have some success and so do they. Neither one of us have won a Big 12 game in three games, but we have lost to two ranked teams and so did they. We've got a chance to let it all hang out this weekend.

"Whoever wins this game will get an injection of confidence and belief to go on and do some more good things. The season won't be over for the losing team, but boy would it be fun to jump on that plane with a victory and get a win in Waco."

On what he thinks of Baylor's program:

"They have speed. You look at their media guide and read about the team. They have three preseason All-Americans, a Ray Guy Award candidate at punter, and a junior college quarterback who seems to get better and better. They've got still and athletes, and they're all from Texas. I've never seen a collection of athletes from Texas that weren't pretty darn good, athletic, and fast. They're all over the state down there. It's a team, too, that is hoping for some success and identity just like us."

On difference of facing left-handed quarterback in Dane King:

"It's not like we try to rush harder from our right side and their left side to disrupt him. They've got a giant offensive line. They know what they're doing and have a good system. They're fighting, scratching, and digging for success like we are."

On Tyson Smith's play coming back from injury:

"He's done a heck of a job. You never know each Saturday, when you've had a real major injury, it could happen again. The odds are against it from what the doctors tell us. Just to see him out there playing is one thing you feel real good about, and when you see him playing well and get an interception the other day, it makes your heart feel good. He's playing with passion, energy, enthusiasm, and is having a lot of fun. We're really proud of Tyson. He's had a lot to do with the success of our defense."

On play of defense thus far:

"This is the best we've been in total defense in all my 10 years I've been here. We're going into our seventh game and are in the top half of rush defense, and we've never been that going into the seventh game of the year. We've got more interceptions than we had during the entire season last year. We have scored three touchdowns more than we did at any time last year. Those are some really good things to build on."

On Meyer's first full-time action at quarterback:

"He had the best grasp of what was going on out there. He told me as we were getting on the plane that this was the first time he really had a great grasp of what he thought the defense was trying to do to us, and what the secondary was trying to do. That means he's really starting to see the big picture. Once he does that consistently, then he's going to be real dangerous and special."

On Nik Moser's settling in at safety position:

"We knew he was an athlete when I offered him a scholarship. I knew that he was a Big 12, Division I athlete. But I didn't know where, because his dad Sam played him at about six or seven spots his junior and senior year. He was all over the place, which was good coaching. I knew he wasn't going to be a quarterback, but I felt like he was an athlete that could be a defensive player. It was just a matter of having some time to coach and evaluate him.

"There is no doubt that he's got a home at safety now. One of the many reasons our defense is playing real well now is the consistent play of Nik Moser and Steve Paris back at the safety spots. They're tackling well, playing well, playing smart, and enjoy playing together."

On any chances of overlooking a team like Baylor:

"None at all. We were bleeding inside in that locker room at Colorado after the game, coaches and players alike. There was such a phenomenal effort given by everybody and we came up a little bit short. It tears your guts out. There was determination, fire, intensity, and excitement about playing the next game, rather than going in the tank and going quietly the rest of the Big 12 Conference."

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