Iowa State vs. Kansas Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State faces Big 12 North Division rival Kansas Saturday afternoon at Jack Trice Stadium. Head coach Dan McCarney previewed the game with the local media during his weekly press conference Tuesday morning. Here is a transcription.

Opening comments:

"I really appreciate the Big 12 Conference honoring Brandon Brown for his performance down at Baylor. It really was outstanding. He had a lot to do with that victory. The stats are strong in his favor, but he really played with special effort. He had a lot of family there, as you can imagine, going back to Texas. I think it was the best game of his career at Iowa State."

"The MVPs for the game were Brandon Brown on defense. On offense, Bret Meyer was 13-of-20 for 65 percent, a touchdown, and zero turnovers. On three runs he had 15 yards. Without question, he was an MVP in our offense. The special teams MVP was Caleb Berg. It was the best game of his career since he's been here. He's a redshirt freshman that gets better and better. He'll be our captain for the Kansas game this week on special teams."

"Brett Kellogg will be out this week. We'll do an MRI on Thursday. We're hoping that it won't require any surgery. They don't know until they can get in there and do an MRI. They suspect it's an MCL, which means there would not be any surgery. It will be immobilization and rehab to get it stronger, then hopefully we'll have a chance to get him back in the next four games. We're sure going to miss him. He's having a real good senior year for us."

"Kansas is definitely an improved football team over last year. They went to the Tangerine Bowl and had a good year. There's no question they're even better this year. They've lost three games by a total of 10 points."

"Defensively, they're definitely a better football team than last year. That's where I see the most improvement. They're third in rush defense right now and sixth in scoring defense. The reason they lost those three games by tight margins is because the defense has kept them in those games. They were 14-10 in Norman at halftime Saturday. There was no fluke to that. They were playing their tails off defensively, and had the one big pass offensively to keep them in the game. They're plus-six in turnover ratio on the year, so they're doing a good job in takeaways and protecting it on offense."

"We've got a lot to be playing for. It's a crazy year in the Big 12 North. We have four games to go, and the winner of this game Saturday will be no worse than tied for second place in the Big 12 North. So we are playing for an awful lot."

"Before this season started, we wanted to see if we could be one of the most improved teams in college football. We're plus-one right now over a year ago. We took two butt kickings from Iowa and Colorado a year ago, and turned them into last-possession games this year on the road. Now we've got four Saturdays to see how much from a win-loss standpoint we can go to show real tangible improvement."

"The unity of this football team is outstanding right now, even though that we've got a lot of improvement to make. We have not played our best football game yet, where all three phases were outstanding. I think it's going to take one of those games Saturday to beat Kansas."

"It seems like many of these Iowa State-Kansas games are really outstanding. Last year it was 15-7 after three quarters in Lawrence, and they mugged us pretty good in the fourth quarter. But many of these games have been very close and hard fought. We're expecting that this week."

On how fans can get more excited:

"I think more of last Saturday would do it. There is no question in my mind we're improved as a football team and program. The end of October and November is always very meaningful to all of us, and how we finish. All four of these teams – Kansas, Nebraska, Kansas State, and Missouri – were in bowl games last year.

"They're going to be very tough physical games. But three of the four are at our place. It doesn't guarantee anything, but we've been on the road a long time and it's nice to be home. Hopefully our fans and everybody else will recognize there is real improvement with this team."

On momentum built from long drive:

"We overcome a sack, intentional grounding penalty, a holding call, a 2nd-and-20, and a 4th-and-1. Regardless of whether they were lined up off-sides or not, we got it and it was one of the best plays of the season with our offense. The left side of our offensive line came off like a big-time offensive line. Overcoming all of those things and to still go in and score was outstanding. It's something we'll build on and hopefully it will help us this week. We need more drives like that, where there is adversity and you overcome it to score points."

On importance of a fast start against KU:

"We have to. We didn't do that last week. We didn't get off to a real good start. Defensively, we deferred and gave them the ball wanting to go on defense. They went down on 14 plays and scored a touchdown. We went three-and-out, so we didn't get off to a very good start.

"Kansas is doing a great job coming out of the locker room ready to play, and we've got to match that. It's really important. They're coming off a loss, and we're coming off of a win. They're coming off a tremendous victory over Kansas State a couple of weeks ago. So I'm sure they're going to come in here with a lot of confidence. But so will we. We think this is going to be a great college football game."

On improvements Mark Mangino's team has made on defense:

"Travis Watkins is back. He missed a lot of last season with injuries on their defensive front. Their defensive ends are playing outstanding. Your entire defense is when you're third in the league against the rush and are doing the things they've done defensively. Their defensive line is playing outstanding. Their ends are athletic, fast, and are really causing lots of problems. They're getting a lot of penetration defensively. Then they rotate in their five or six linebackers, and they can all run. They're hard to run the football on. It's not like it's a porous pass defense, but people have done a better job throwing against them than passing."

On Jayhawk linebacker Gabe Toomey:

"He is a heck of a player. We recruited him and wanted him to come to Iowa State, but he went to Kansas. He is doing a good job down there. He is one of the many linebackers we're going to have to do a real good job of sustaining blocks against. They really run to the ball well and have great speed with their front seven."

On confidence built from game-winning drive in Waco:

"It's a real positive. You go back and think about some of the things we had to overcome to win that game. We knew we were going to get their best shot. Baylor played their best football game of the year, the quarterback played the best game of the season, and their defense played its best. It wasn't that we were inept. They had a to do with that. They were ready, cranked up, and it was Homecoming. Yet we were good enough to come away from there with a victory.

"I think we can build on it and have to. It's going to be important. This is the best measure of the improvement of a football team – these past few weeks of the season. Everybody gets some guys knicked, or a little worn out and tired. It's a matter of who is the most hungry. There are a lot of rewards out there. Here we are with four games to go in the season and there is a lot to play for."

On forcing more turnovers, especially fumbles:

"We coach it, teach it, and have a period for it. It finally happened. We got four and felt like we should have definitely gotten another fumble. We knocked another one loose in the pocket on the quarterback. We dropped two picks. That's seven turnovers in that game we should have had. We dropped two that hit us right in the chest. We catch those two and get on the other fumble we forced, that's seven.

"We finally started getting the ball out. We've been preaching it and talking about it. It was just a matter of when it would happen, but let's get going with it. We're rolling right now from a forced fumble standpoint. One of the main things we're doing better are scoring on defense, getting more turnovers, and getting more sacks. But let's do a better job this week."

On balance of Jayhawk offense:

"Statistically, they're doing a better job of throwing the football. But they've got good backs. John Randle is one of the top all-purpose athletes in the Big 12. Clark Green was an honorable mention All-Big 12 player last year. They have a gigantic physical offensive line, with many of the same guys we saw last year.

"Nick Quartaro is the coordinator and was one of my assistants for a long time. He's an excellent coach and they know what they're doing. They have some power attack coming at you, and also some finesse with their offense. We're really going to have to be at our best Saturday."

On differences in quarterback Bret Meyer of late:

"It's maturity, confidence, and experience. There is just a different look in his eye now, and anyone that's been around him on the football team will tell you the same thing. It's not like he was shy, scared to death, and nervous about taking a snap. The first time he went on the road to play was at Iowa, and on the opening series he looked like a guy that had been doing that for a while. It showed me something about the kid.

"There is a real good look in his eye right now. With every positive thing he does and individual success he has, he'll just get better and better with that."

On any changes since Meyer was handed full-time role:

"I don't sense a lot of difference in him. But obviously, coming out of that last fourth quarter drive and the come-from-behind victory, he should feel like this is a little bit more his team and offense. His consistency, approach, and personality have not changed, but he's got a little extra sparkle in his eye right now."

On backups along offensive line:

"We need more competition in the offensive line right now. Those same five are taking almost all of the snaps. I'm a little disappointed that some of our backups aren't pushing those starters more than they are right now."

On situation at running back with Stevie Hicks and Jason Scales:

"We'll play them both and like them both. There isn't any one certain play or things that Stevie does better than Jason. I like them both and can see them really coming on. I could see them sharing the load these next few games like they did on Saturday. Jason is really improving, and it's not anything with Stevie getting worse because he's improving too. But Jason has improved his blocking and gave our offense a spark when he was in there Saturday. That competition is really going and that will help our team. He's a true freshman just learning the game, but he's going to be fun."

On strides Scales has made to become more of a factor:

"There were a lot of things, but protection was a main thing. Every running back now in college football is involved in protection. Some high school running backs don't do much of that. When they do it, sometimes they're cutting and cutting. You've got to stand up and take them on in the chest and jaw. You've got to do it both ways.

"Jason reminds me of both the Davis brothers, in that he is not that big but is powerful, explosive, and is really taking pride in blocking. Stevie Hicks has been clearly our best blocker as a running back, but the gap is getting closed these last few weeks because Jason is really learning how to do it too."

On home dominance in the ISU-KU series:

"The home team has won six of the last seven, and we've won the last three home games. It doesn't give you any blocks, tackles, throws, catches, or kicks for you. But that's the way this thing has gone in recent years. We're hoping we can hold onto that tradition, and make it seven-out-of-eight on Saturday."

On any thoughts that this could be start of a mini season:

"We really didn't. We started that, really, before the Colorado game – that we've got a new season. We feel like right now we should have two Big 12 road victories in a row. We knew that we lost in a tough game at Colorado. We're getting better. I can't wait to get out with them today and start coaching them. They got a reward for their efforts last week, and we've got a chance for more rewards these next few Saturdays."

On situation with Tony Yelk:

"We were talking about him before I came up here today. We will visit with him again today. He is not 100 percent. It would be easy to tell him not to play anymore, and then we'll get him a sixth year. But I don't know what the percentages on that would be. There is no surgery. If he doesn't get a sixth year, then basically he didn't have a senior year.

"The ideal thing would be, if he was 100 percent and healthy, we would let him do all that stuff these next few Saturdays. That would let him have a great month of his senior year. But I don't think that's going to happen. If that's the case, what do you do? Do we apply and try to get a sixth year? I don't have a precedence to know what his chances are. It would come down to an appeal. I know his frustration level is at an all-time high. He wants to give Iowa State an awful lot in his senior year and hasn't been able to do that."

On continuing to use freshman kicker Bret Culbertson:

"I hope so. He was 3-for-3 on his kicks. We'll continue to look at all those guys again, but I was proud of him Saturday. The kickoff he had after the penalty when we had to kick from the 20 goes 66 yards and gave our kickoff team a chance to cover it. It ended up on the 31-yard line and we'll take that anytime when we kick from the 20.

"He's got a good look in his eye. I nicknamed him George Plimpton a long time ago when I first saw him. He's done a good job and is another one of those freshmen that's contributing right now. If he keeps kicking them good, we're going to leave him out there. We had been looking at him all season long, but his consistency has really improved in recent weeks."

On Terrance Highsmith on depth chart as backup punter:

"He's been doing our punting for us in practice, and is not bad. I've never seen a guy punt it and then run down to the other end and catch it. We won't ask him to do that, but his mechanics are pretty good. Hopefully it's strictly an emergency. But he's got a strong leg and has hit some strong punts in the last couple few weeks. If Tony continues to struggle then he would definitely be our backup."

On Brandon Brown:

"It's probably just a little bit more urgency with everything he does. He knows his career is winding down. I think he's playing for the hopes that he could play more after Iowa State. He's always got the same personality and never gets too high or too low. He's a great young man. I'm proud of the job he did Saturday. It was great to see all of his family. I don't know that I've seen parents or a family more excited or as happy as his was after that game Saturday."

On potential fan support for Kansas game:

"I just hope the great nucleus of fans that we've had since I took the job are here, and then I hope we'll get a great walk up. We've gone from 50s and windy to 68 and sunny on Saturday, so it's going to be a real good day for football. The resolve, resiliency, and heart these kids showed Saturday – if I were an Iowa State fan I can't imagine not wanting to come out and support these kids. I'm really excited about these next few games. I'm hoping our fans will turn out en masse to support them."

On offensive line's progress:

"It's been slow. The best blue collar guy of the bunch has been Kory Pence, because his career was going out and blocking on PATs and field goals before this year. He's not a great athlete and doesn't have tremendous feet, but he is hard-nosed, tough, and loves this team. You talk about rolling your sleeves up and let's go to work – that's him every day. He has played the last couple games with a minor injury, but he doesn't want to get off the field.

"Aaron Brant and Seth Zehr are still a work in progress, but those are good young sophomores. I'm really proud of Luke Vander Sanden and Cale Stubbe as the leaders of that offensive line. Hopefully we can keep in tact, because we are getting a little better."

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