McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the Big 12 media via teleconference Monday morning to discuss the Cyclones' home victory against Kansas, and to look ahead for another game in Jack Trice Stadium with Nebraska Saturday. Here are some highlights.

Opening comments:

"It was a real hard fought football game here with Kansas. They're a very physical team that's well coached. Both defenses really dominated the game. Wind conditions were 30 to 40 miles an hour throughout the game, so it wasn't a thrower's paradise. Both the defenses did a real good job. The difference was we won the turnover margin, 4-to-1 and one of those turnovers was a defensive score for us. We feel very fortunate and proud to win the football game.

"Nebraska is an excellent football team. Here we are heading into the last three Saturdays of the Big 12 race and they're in first place in the Big 12. There is talent and I'm sure a lot of confidence coming out of the big victory over Missouri. It should be a tremendous football game. Nebraska was one of the many teams that completely dominated us a year ago. I have great respect, friendship, and admiration for Bill Callahan and his staff. We know they're going to be ready to go, and we've got to make sure we are."

On dealing with comments of Big 12 North's weakness:

"It does kind of get old. We've got our own world we live in trying to get our team ready to play, and focusing on the next opponent. But that stuff gets a little old after a while. I understand some of it. But I have such great respect for the coaches, players, staffs, and teams that we have in the North. It's just human nature to bow up a little bit when you hear that stuff.

"I don't think anybody would make any apologies (for winning the North). We've got a lot of football to play. I don't think any team in this Big 12 North should have to make any apologies on anything. This is a conference and division that is full of outstanding coaches and teams. The neat thing about the Big 12 North is, with three Saturdays to go, that six teams are very much in the race. It makes it exciting for all the teams, fans, and programs of the North."

On progress from beginning of season to know:

"I'd say we've made some marked improvement, and hopefully that has shown. We've got a long ways to go and we're going to have to play much better this week as a total football team. We know that. But we've come a long ways and been an underdog since the Northern Iowa game."

On Bret Culbertson's emergence:

"It's been a merry-go-round of kickers, with the injuries throughout the season. Bret is the guy that's stepped up the last few weeks, and is 5-for-5 on gameday with PATs and field goals. If he continues to practice well this week, he'll definitely go in as our number one.

"It would be nice to get some stability at that position, and productivity. We've gotten that the last two Saturdays. I'm proud of Bret. He's a walk-on that's stepping out there right now. Before the season he had no expectations, and all of a sudden he's our guy. We're proud that we got him."

On rallying from tough three-game stretch early:

"It's being as honest as you can with the young men on the football team. We had losses to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M – two outstanding football teams and nationally ranked at the time. Three of the losses we have are to Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M – two teams all ranked in the top 25. We lost to real fine teams on those days.

"We have tried to take a lot of small steps of improvement this year, and I think we've been able to do that so far. We have never lost our kids. There was no doubt about it. They showed a lot of resolve, resiliency, and character through the last few weeks. They've gotten some payoffs and rewards the last two Saturdays. They know what it takes to win, and we're hoping we can do that some more before the season is over."

On improvements needed on offense:

"We need to put together more than we did Saturday. Kansas' defense did a heck of a job. Our time of possession, Stevie Hicks' rushing for over 100 yards, and turning it over once were all good things. But we're going to have to play a lot better as an offense in execution and scoring points. We're not going to tag Nebraska for 45 points, but we've got to do a better job than we did Saturday."

On improvements in running game:

"We're getting a little better running the football. We've had three Saturdays in a row where our running back position has had over a hundred yards rushing. We're now bowling people over and lighting it up statistically, but we have gotten better. Stevie Hicks at Colorado, Stevie Hicks and Jason Scales combined at Baylor, and Stevie Hicks this past weekend have gone over 100 yards.

"But we've got a long ways to go. There are no Outland candidates up front in our offensive line. But we are proud of some improvement, and are going to have to play better this week offensively. We still have yet to put a game together where you can say we won all three phases convincingly."

On emotions around team after slow start:

"They're excited, in that we were in a hole after losing a couple tough games earlier in the conference race. We felt like at Colorado we clearly beat ourselves and had a chance at a road victory. We did get the road victory at Baylor, and then beat a real solid Kansas team this past Saturday.

"There is marked improvement that they can see. It's not giant leaps and bounds all the time, but there is no doubt they see improvement. When kids know they're improving, football is a lot of fun. That's what we've got to continue to build this Saturday."

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