McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the Big 12 media via teleconference Monday morning to discuss the benefits of the Cyclones' bye week, and to look ahead to the team's showdown in Manhattan against Kansas State. Here are some highlights.

Opening comments:

"We feel like we had an excellent open week. It was obviously not an off week, it was an open week. We tried to get our guys some rest, and zero in on our weaknesses and shortcomings. We tried to improve our football team. I'm very pleased with what we got out of our open week.

"Kansas State is still a tremendous football team. I know they've had some disappointing close losses, but that's got to be the best 4-6 team in America. We all know about the unbelievable job that Bill Snyder has done, and the unbelievable legacy that he's left at Kansas State.

"I still see about 25 seniors on that football team. I think there are 10 of them starting, and it will be their last home game. We've got a pretty good idea what we'll be stepping into down there this week. It's still a tremendous program, and one that everybody around the country respects. It should be an outstanding Big 12 football game."

On what it means to be on top of Big 12 after preseason expectations:

"I don't know about any of your expectations. We were picked anywhere from 86th in the country all the way to 90th. We were picked dead last in the Big 12 North, and dead last in the Big 12 overall. The expectations from the outside, rightfully so coming out of last year's nightmarish season, were about right where I thought they would have been. We're just trying to get better. We started the season as an underdog to a I-AA team in Northern Iowa. We've slowly but surely tried to get better each week, and for the most part we've been able to do that."

On reasons for Big 12 North shaking out like it has:

"I really don't know. Four or five teams, with two Saturdays to go all have a chance at winning the Big 12 North. So it makes it exciting for all of us that are in the North. It's one of those years where there wasn't somebody that just ran away with it, and got hot early and never looked back. Oklahoma has done that in already wrapping up the Big 12 South."

On offensive MVP candidates for this season:

"There are a bunch of no-names, frankly. We've got a number of freshmen and sophomores, and 14 in our offensive two-deep to be exact. The progress and emergence of Todd Blythe, who is leading the Big 12 in touchdown receptions as a redshirt freshman. The emergence, maturity, and gradual improvement of Bret Meyer at quarterback, another redshirt freshman.

"Both of those kids – there are a lot of plays throughout this season that they've gone on to make some things happen that you wouldn't think those were two redshirt freshmen. They're beyond their years from a maturity standpoint. I'm really proud of both those kids."

On magnitude of this weekend's game:

"It's a big game. Usually this time of year for decades, Iowa State wasn't playing for much but just trying to keep their head above water and trying to get respect from people. It still depends on the finish. We could finish as low as fifth in the Big 12 North, or as high as Big 12 North champions. We could sit at home over the Holidays like we did last year, or we could go to our fourth bowl game in five years. There is a lot to play for in these next 12 days of this Big 12 season."

On conference allowing teams to add 12th regular-season game:

"I'm all for it and would be in favor of it all the way, especially if we can get people out there to our stadium and we could get seven home games. I don't know that that's always going to be possible, but the financial aspect of it is huge. An extra home game has a monumental impact financially on a program like ours. I think we have the smallest budget in the Big 12 Conference, and another home game would really help our program."

On keeping team motivated and focused on what's at stake:

"I don't think it's been a problem. This team, for as young as it is, has really shown a high level of maturity. We sure hope that continues. We just don't look any further than the day in front of us, and the day that's here. We don't look back and don't look ahead. So far this team has really done a good job of taking care of what's happening today, and not looking at anything behind or in front of us."

On using other's preseason expectations as motivation:

"I don't hold my breath waiting for college football magazines to come out. Do I read them? Absolutely. I'll thumb through them. There is always some good information and scouting reports. And then when you go through a season like we did last year, they're sure not going to be picking us anywhere but last in anything.

"I don't refresh the kids' memories every Monday or Tuesday where they picked us preseason. But we've come a long ways. But how do you want to be remembered? It's how you finish, and not what we've done in the last few weeks. We're all measured in seasons and how you finish seasons."

On having a feel for where his players' minds are:

"I think it's important that we communicate. You always want a great pulse of your players. You can't just rely on your assistants for that. I've got to have a great pulse. The best coaches that I've ever been around do a great job of that, week in and week out, season in and season out. There is great mutual trust and respect among coaches and players, and you can communicate.

"I've been really proud of the leadership. This is a young team, and there are not a lot of seniors starting on this team. For what we've been through and expectations from the outside in the beginning, and the opportunity that is here the next couple of weeks, this is about as much fun as I've had coaching in my 10 years at Iowa State."

On getting Blythe to come to ISU:

"We thought he was going to be pretty special. It was an Iowa State-Iowa recruiting battle. He made the decision the week we were going over to play Iowa when we beat them over there in 2002. He cancelled his trip to go watch the game, and didn't want to use Iowa's tickets. I thought we had something special. We had been watching Todd's tapes, and saw basketball and football practices. He is just a tremendous competitor.

"It was hard to hold him last year. We did have five senior receivers, and that impacted a lot of my decision to hold him. I also felt like he needed one more year to develop. Anything Todd Blythe does doesn't surprise me. He's got talent, size, and comes ready to practice every day."

On Blythe's nose for the end zone and scoring so many touchdowns:

"He's done a great job of that. We know everybody's aware of it that's trying to defense him. He's got a great ability to time his jumps and leaps when the ball goes up in the air. He has a great competitive look in his eye whenever the ball is in the air. But you've got to be physical, too. This is a physical league with tremendous defensive backs and coverage guys with a lot of hand checking. You've got to be able to separate yourself from the defender, get up and get the ball, make a play, and hopefully come down with it. He's sure been doing that for us all season."

On status of Tyson Smith, and other injured players:

"(Smith) is very doubtful. Brandon Brown is out. Brett Kellogg is out. Tony Yelk has been out. Andy Kohler has been out since August. There are four guys that are definitely, and then Tyson would be very doubtful this week."

On what push to top of Big 12 North has meant in recruiting:

"It's been very positive. We sure didn't do anything last year to attract much attention to Iowa State football after three really good seasons. It's nice to see at least we're back being competitive again. Slowly but surely, we're getting young men to take a look at our program again and say that's a pretty darn good option.

"We finished our last two days of the six evaluation days last week, and every one of my coaches said the reception was outstanding on the road."

On Florida and Texas kids following ISU:

"We'll be on Fox Sports TV this week and ABC the last week against Missouri, so we've got two other opportunities for people to watch our football team. Hopefully they'll be impressed by what they see."

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