Iowa State vs. Nebraska Quotebook

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

Opening comments:

"Our MVPs from the Kansas game were Stevie Hicks on offense. He really ran extremely hard and had 30 rushes for 110 yards, and 82 yards after contact. I gave Stevie a game ball. The defensive MVPs were all 11 starters. They just played outstanding football, and it was one of the better defensive games since I've been here. We gave Shawn Moorehead the game ball, which he sure deserved with a tremendous effort. Bret Culbertson was the special teams MVP with a 22-yard field, 35-yard field goal, and a PAT. He gave us some hope that we can have a guy we can count on for the rest of the season. Our special teams captain for Nebraska will be Nick Leaders. We have blocked six kicks already this year, and three of them were by Nick. His effort has been phenomenal."

"An injury update – everyone that played last Saturday should be ready to go. We lost Andy Kohler, Tony Yelk, and Bret Kellogg, but other than that everything has been minor all season. That has helped us continue improving each week. Everybody else that went out of the game Saturday will definitely be ready to practice tonight."

"Nebraska is an outstanding football team again. They have 14 or 15 starters off of that 10-win team last year. They've never had any shortage of players at Nebraska. They're coming off a very impressive victory over Missouri last week. Cory Ross ended up rushing for over 194 yards, and Missouri's leading rusher was Brad Smith with 25 yards. That's a pretty telling tail of that football game.

"Many of the same players that beat us 28-0 are returning. They have dominated Iowa State through the ages. You've seen the same scores that I've seen and been a part of since I've been here, and long before I got here." "We're excited about this game. There shouldn't be an empty seat in the place. Hopefully it's a majority of Iowa State fans, and not half-and-half with Nebraska fans. We want this to be our home game and not their's. There are a few tickets left for the game Saturday, as I understand."

"We have a lot of work to do in the next few days before Saturday, but my excitement and enthusiasm to go coach these kids today is as high as it's been since I've been here. I'm excited to get out and work with this team."

On viewing Nebraska as a benchmark game:

"I think so, because it's a measure of time and so many years of success and dominance. You look at what Bill Snyder's done at Kansas State as being phenomenal, and they're the defending Big 12 champions. But over the test of time – Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, Frank Solich, and now Bill Callahan – the machine has kept on roaring.

"Even though they've lost three games this year, we've been around football for a long time and they've got a lot of good players. This is going to be a major challenge, and I'm sure that's one of the many reasons we're underdogs again this week."

On Huskers' offense playing more towards strengths:

"They have obviously stopped turning it over. They had some games where they had all kinds of turnovers – I think 27 on the season. But they sure didn't do it Saturday. They only threw the ball 18 times, but the wind was blowing pretty good in Lincoln too and that does effect what you're trying to do. We found out on Saturday how hard it was to get the ball down the field.

"They've had one of the great rush offenses in America for decades, and are doing a real good job of running the football right now. In the West Coast offense, the heart of it still has to be a good running game. They're sure doing a lot of that recently."

On importance of winning turnover margin:

"It's a real key. You can almost count it up every Saturday in games that you play. It's not always that way, but a majority of the time, the team that takes care of the ball better and gets more turnovers defensively, is going to win the football game. We've got 11 in the last three games on defense, which is great. We've scored five times on defense, and should have two more. We are making a lot of plays defensively, and we've blocked six kicks.

"It's going to be really important. You see two Big 12 wins, one on the road and one at home, and one turnover by the offense the last two weeks. It gives you a chance. If we can hang in there with Nebraska physically, and have a chance to win because of our special teams and turnover ratio, we know it will enhance our chances of winning this game."

On offensive finding an identity:

"It takes time, but our clock is running fast right now. We're playing for so much starting Saturday. We've got to have an identity. The good news is we have had the running back position rush for over 100 yards in each of the last three Saturdays. We didn't set any records, but we are getting better. We felt like Saturday against a defense that was third against the rush, Stevie getting over 100 yards was very meaningful in the outcome of that game.

"We'll get a great test against (Kevin Cosgrove's) defense this week. They know how to stop running games with their defense. We have to improve a lot this week offensively. We can't just rely on defense, special teams, and time of possession to win games in this league. It happened Saturday, but we've got to be better offensively this Saturday.

"We've got to be better blockers and sustain blocks. We had a couple real silly penalties Saturday. We ran a couple of reverses and got a holding penalty on one of them. That could have been a big play. We miss a block on the other one with one of our wide receivers, otherwise it's out the gate. Things like that keep you from doing a better job. Every one on this team needs to step up."

On Nebraska's head coach and his staff:

"I know Billy because we worked together for a number of years. I knew he would be very successful at Nebraska. You have mixed feelings in those situations, because Frank Solich is also a real good friend of mine. I didn't like to see what happened to him after winning 10 games, but those things happen in this profession and sometimes you can't figure them out. But Bill Callahan had nothing to do with that decision. He got an opportunity at one of the great schools in the history of college football. I knew he would be a heck of a choice.

"Bill Callahan, Kevin Cosgrove, and Jay Norvell – you talk about being in the trenches together. You go from 1-and-10 to 10-and-1 and do it the hard way and right way, you develop strong bonds, relationships, trust, and faith."

On surprises about Callahan's return to college coaching:

"When Billy was in the NFL, he said this was the cat's rear end and something I ought to do. But sometimes when things don't work out, you don't love it as much as you did before. But I'm not surprised at all, because Bill can coach at any level of football."

On memories of coaching alongside Callahan at Wisconsin:

"We had a lot of fun every day. It was kind of like Kirk Ferentz and myself, in that we were offensive and defensive line coaches together. You compete every day out there in practice, and then go recruit together. You enjoy the great times together.

"Billy and I were offensive and defensive line coaches. I was the coordinator and he was the offensive line coach there. We were competing against each other every day. And there wasn't anybody I enjoyed going on the road more to recruit with than Bill Callahan. Maybe it's the Irish in both of us. We enjoyed a lot of great times together.

"When you do the things that we did under Barry Alvarez's leadership up there and the program he built – those are some things we'll always be real proud of."

On Barney Cotton facing his old team as ISU coach:

"His focus is real good. It's not about Barney Cotton versus Nebraska. This is about Iowa State doing some things this week and hopefully in the last three weeks that no one in America even dreamed we could get done. We've got a long ways to go. We're going into the ninth week of the season and nobody is talking about Iowa State, which doesn't surprise. But we've got three Saturdays to have a chance at being one of the most improved teams in America.

"That's what is out there, and it's more important than talking about those ‘son of a guns that let me go, fired me, and I'm getting back at them.' I don't sense that. Barney hasn't said that to me or the players. His preparation is very normal, but I'm sure his emotions and motor will be running high on Saturday."

On what Cotton contributes in a gameplan:

"It's no different than when I left Iowa and went to Wisconsin. It's no different than when somebody leaves one school and goes to another. It's a small, close fraternity of coaches in college football. Many coaches coach together and against each other many times. It's way overrated, as far as gameday and being able to effect the outcome of a game. What you do get is better insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the players they coached. The rest of it is real overrated."

On Ellis Hobbs:

"Ellis has just been phenomenal. It started last January. We got through the ridiculous season of 2003, and he was going to make sure that nothing like that happened in his senior year. He tried to take that responsibility. It started in winter workouts and then lifting, out-of-season, spring, and summer workouts. He's always had great passion and was a tremendous leader, but he's taken it to another level. You see it on gameday, and I see it seven days a week. He's got a burning desire to keep pushing this football team to win."

On Nebraska's loss of All-Big 12 tight end Matt Herian to a broken leg:

"He is a tremendous football player. You don't like to see it; none of us do. It was a real serious, ugly injury. He is clearly one of their better players on offense, and it happens. You hate to see it. This is a fast and physical game with a lot of collisions. But Nebraska is one of those teams that seems to put out five-deeps, where a lot of us put out two-deeps. They've never had a problem with a shortage of players."

On progress since loss to Texas A&M at home:

"I'm proud of the togetherness and unity on this team and staff. We were all a little disappointed coming out of the A&M game, because we knew we could play better. Ever since that Colorado game, there has been another level or resolve, resiliency, toughness, and heart with this staff and team. We want some good things to happen to this team. These kids deserve it, but you've got to go earn it."

On being underdogs this weekend:

"All of the pressure is on Nebraska, as far as I'm concerned, in this football game. I'd just as soon we go through three more Saturdays in the Big 12 and nobody says much about Iowa State. We were excited about the win over Baylor, because we thought they were much improved. There are good players all over the place in this conference. We've got two good wins and are going to try to get some more before it's over."

On lessons from a few years ago and beating Nebraska in Ames:

"It's one of the biggest ones since I've been here, given the circumstances and being able to win and dominate Nebraska physically. There was no fluke to it. We ran the one keep by Seneca (Wallace) for a touchdown. There weren't any tricks in that game. We beat them physically, and that's what Nebraska has done to Iowa State for about 35 years. We were able to do it to them one time.

"This game is going to be extremely physically. If you hope to beat Nebraska, which three teams have this year, you've got to be real physical on gameday. We're going to have to do that this week."

On Husker running back Cory Ross:

"He's explosive, fast, and supposedly has been missing some practices with a turf toe. But he didn't look like he's missed any practices watching that game. We've watched the tape and studied it since Sunday. Especially on the long 86-yard run where he ran away from Missouri guys. He is really an outstanding football player.

"But from a year ago, he really developed into their best back last year. When they started really rolling, number four started rolling. That's sure what he's been doing lately this year."

On ISU's special teams:

"We won Saturday and won eight of 11 goals that we set. But we made some silly mistakes that need to be corrected. We feel good that (Troy Blankenship) has stepped in and done a real nice job at punter. We feel good that Culbertson has two games in a row under his belt where he hasn't missed a kick. Hopefully he'll take the field with a lot of confidence. We had the one real good kickoff return with Ellis Hobbs, but there are still some inconsistencies that need to be fixed."

On Nebraska's loss to Texas Tech, and what ISU can take from it:

"It was one of those games where the turnovers were ridiculous, and the short fields that they gave them. It was a one-day thing that no coach ever wants to experience on the losing end. Texas Tech is a real good football team, but watching that tape it became clear we weren't going to spend a lot of time on it. Every mistake that could be made in a game happened to Nebraska, and then the score went beyond ugly. It was one of those days. I've seen a lot more good snaps and in a good Nebraska football team than I did watching that game. We'll get more out of the other games than we did the Texas Tech game."

On any thoughts of bowl game:

"We haven't talked about it. They can read newspapers and hear the radio and TV, but I just don't think we're mature enough, smart enough, or can handle all that stuff right now. If they're thinking of anything but beating a team that has physically beaten up Iowa State through the last 30 years, then we're probably going after it thinking about too much. We need to continue our improvement and go to 4-and-1 at home this year."

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