Iowa State vs. K-State: Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State faces Big 12 North Division rival Kansas State Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, trying to get over the hump against an opponent that has been dominant in recent years. 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 wanted to just review the MVPs from the Nebraska game, since we were away from each other for a week. We had three game balls that we gave out – Todd Blythe on offense, Ellis Hobbs on defense, and Ryan Baum on special teams. Blythe had almost 200 yards in the first half, and was fifth-best in Iowa State history in a game. He continues to have a fabulous first year for us. Ellis Hobbs had six tackles, three pass breakups, and just an outstanding game on defense.

"On special teams we actually had three MVPs – Ryan Baum for special teams coverage, Troy Blankenship as the punter, and Bret Culbertson being six out of six did a great job in helping us beat Nebraska. Our special teams captain for Kansas State will be Ryan Baum. He's been an intregal part of our special teams.

"From an injury standpoint it's really nothing new. Tyson Smith is still very doubtful. He is getting better, and is beginning to jog and those kinds of things. We're not giving up on this week, but we're not going to put him out there at 80 or 90 percent. I think there is a real possibility we may get him back for Missouri, unlike Brett Kellogg, Tony Yelk, Andy Kohler, and Brandon Brown.

"Kansas State, what can you say, it's one of the top programs over the years. They've had one of the great winning percentages in all of college football at home. I'm sure there is disappointment they're not going to postseason play this year, but it doesn't change anything from our approach. This is a tremendous football team that had a lot of experience going into this season. They are the defending Big 12 champions, even though they can't be that this year. They still have a lot of players that had to do with their Big 12 championship team last year. I count 25 seniors on their roster, 10 of them starting, and 15 in the two-deep. Those guys will be playing their last game, and I'm sure it's going to be very emotional.

"We've got to make sure we go into that environment, focus on the job at hand, be as good as we can be, and try to continue our improvement and climb up the mountain from where we started in August. There is a great opportunity for this team. It's a real exciting time around here. A month ago there were names flashed out there on who my replacement would be, and here we are playing for a chance at the Big 12 championship.

"It's a pretty exciting time. I'm really proud of my staff and players. I will be regardless of what happens the next two Saturdays, because of the improvement we've made, and the focus, resolve, and courage of this team. There is some great stuff out there. Why not Iowa State and the Cyclones? Let's see if we can get some of those good things out there."

On different feel for this year's matchup with Kansas State, given its struggles:

"I don't think it's real different. We went through a nightmare season last year, and we're getting an opportunity to play against a lot of teams that had their way with Iowa State last year. Kansas State is one of the many we played last year, and let's go back and try to make it a good football game and put ourselves in position to win.

"Todd Blythe, Bret Meyer, Greg Coleman, and the list goes on – those guys had nothing to do with what's happened here in the past. They know that Kansas State is a great challenge and an outstanding program with a future hall-of-fame coach in Bill Snyder. They will be ready to play against us in a tough environment. But frankly, the struggles and tough times of the past don't really have to do with Saturday."

On K-State's downfall this season:

"There are a lot of good players on the field. They had some close losses – three points, 10, and 10. They had some heartbreaking losses. Everyone is aware of the Colorado game. But I don't see it being a lot different. They've got one of the top kickers in college football. They're very physical on both sides of the ball, and have many seniors on offense. Defensively, they're giving up more points than they normally do, but there are still a lot of very good snaps. But it doesn't look to me like there is a bid dropoff from a talent standpoint when you watch them play. They've always had good players since Bill took over."

On any rotation of linebackers at two inside positions:

"Jamarr Buchanan will definitely start. Matt Robertson is definitely our backup MIKE. Boyd Viers is definitely our backup WILL linebacker. We took all of last week to evaluate the young guys and gave them a chance. We practiced, scrimmaged, went ones-ones and twos-twos, and took a 35-play scrimmage one day. That's the way it came out. We're not going to roll Matt Robertson over to WILL. He is strictly a MIKE backer. Viers will help us at WILL and back up at SAM, too."

On Meyer's progress since Baylor game:

"Confidence is so important, belief in yourself and knowing you can do it. To have faith and confidence from people around you, you have to have faith and confidence in yourself. It's not that Bret lacked a lot of confidence. He showed me something going over to Iowa in that environment earlier this season. He didn't have a great day, but showed he had something special. It was just a matter of when.

"The process continues. He's still a work in progress. I just think it's the confidence he has in himself. He knows that everybody believes in him on this team. He's now done some things and experienced it. He's seeing the field better, and understands the big picture. But he still knows he has a lot to learn."

On past games being blowouts because of mistakes:

"It's ridiculous how many times Kansas State took them away. We threw interceptions or had fumbles. Some of the games got out of hand fast with early turnovers and takeaways. We just can't do that. We have no chance to win this game going down there and turning the ball over a number of times against Kansas State. That's one of the many areas we've really improved in in recent weeks. We're going to get a real test Saturday against Bobby Elliott's defense."

On emotion being a key to this game:

"I think there is. How you play the game without emotion, I don't know. There is only so much of it before the first snap, and there is going to be emotion for a lot of reasons on both sides. But it's a three-hour, 15-minute game of emotion. It only carries you so far and you've got to line up and play. You've got to go toe-to-toe and jaw-to-jaw with an extremely physical football team."

On importance of a fast start:

"We have to. Early success, and especially in this game in this environment, is going to be really important. We've got to execute, whether we're on offense or defense on the field first. We need to protect the football, and don't give them easy scoring opportunities and short fields. Hopefully we can execute and make some plays. It's going to be two weeks since we last played a football game, and hopefully we'll look like a team that handled the open week the right way. I think we have, but the measure is in a football game."

On young players understanding importance of a division championship:

"I'm not talking to them about it, to be honest. After the Nebraska game I said, ‘here's where it's at, here's where we are, and here's where the other teams are.' Nothing changes as far as our approach goes. It's all about Kansas State. It's the next opponent and next team. It's one of the many teams that humiliated us and embarrassed us last year. You get a chance to come back and hopefully make it a football game, and put yourself in a position to win. At the beginning of the season we talked about being one of the most improved teams in America. We've got an opportunity these next two Saturdays that every Iowa State football in the last hundred years would love to have."

On type of offense K-State presents:

"There is no question they want to run the football. They've done a great job of that, and have been one of the best rush offenses in college football for years and years. When you watch the Nebraska game, there are a lot of good players on Nebraska's defense, and they couldn't hardly slow them down. They ran the ball and Webb had a big day (at quarterback).

"They run a tremendous system. When you prepare for Bill Snyder's offense, you do more breakdown in a scouting report. There is more to look at and more different looks than any offense we'll see all year. He knows what he's doing, and has one of the great systems in college football.

"I don't see a lot of difference with either of those quarterbacks in there. They give you lots of looks, lots of motion, lots of sets, and it's a power attack, speed attack, and finesse attack. Then you've got one of the best players in the history of Big 12 football in Darren Sproles back there that gets a lot of opportunities."

On different offensive outlook with improved kicking game:

"It's completely different. It was a circus, trying to go out and kick PATs and field goals for a while. There is nothing automatic and we don't take anything for granted. But Bret is 12-for-12 in the games he's kicked in, and it does give you some real confidence that we're going to get things done. But I still don't go in arrogant in any games about our kicking game, and whether we're going to make them all. But it does give you some semblance of confidence when you start making some of those kicks. I hope it will continue. He's had a good open week kicking the ball."

On Sproles' not getting as much attention this season:

"He was a 2,000-yard rusher last year, and I think 1,100 this year. I have listened to Bill Snyder talk about Darren Sproles all throughout his career. It sounds like one of the classiest kids that ever put on a uniform. He is a team guy and unselfish, but he is a warrior. We know that in his last game down there, he's going to be ready to go and hard to deal with. He is a great football player."

On team's lack of penalties and high rating in conference:

"Throughout the last few years we have been pretty darn good. It's something we talk about. When I come in on my Sunday night meetings, we talk about it and I show them where we're at in the conference. We illustrate the penalties that we got and the reasons behind them. We're not trying to embarrass kids, but we're putting it up there. We don't want to beat ourselves. Take care of the football, get some turnovers, be smart, and don't get a lot of foolish penalties. We want them going after them on both sides of the ball, but don't beat ourselves."

On instant replay in the Big 12:

"It's something we'll talk about some more. It's something that we should continue to talk about. We talked about it a little bit last year with the head coaches, and I'm sure we will again this year in May when we go out to Colorado. What we want to see now is how much it lengthens games, and how many situations it really helped get the right call when the wrong call could have been made. It's something I think we'll eventually get. We'll get it in the Big 12. I think everybody in Division I will get it eventually.

"But the games are long now, with radio timeouts, TV timeouts, and coach's timeouts. And you start getting into challenges and replays – you just don't want this thing lasting four hours. You guys have to get home and see your families, too."

On attitude of team last four weeks:

"It's real good. We've had a real good attitude with this team since we started in August. I was really impressed with it. We had some success in the non-conference. We had a setback at Iowa, and a couple of tough losses early in the Big 12. But the same team comes to practice everyday. They're hungry and want to learn. I have not had one problem with kids coming ready to practice.

"The coaches have a great energy level, everybody is coaching on the run, and the atmosphere is real strong and good. As we've talked about many times, when the team knows they're getting better, the morale is really strong. We have gone through some ups and downs, adversity and successes, but there is not a year that I've had more fun than this one with this team."

On keeping kids on an even keel throughout:

"I want them to enjoy it. At least there are some people out there mentioning Iowa State without giggling, like they did last year. Even now, we all know what's going on. When someone mentions Iowa State and first place, there is a snicker and giggle attached to that. Not in this room, but there is outside this room.

"The kids understand right now that there are some opportunities that lie ahead in the next 11 days that every kid in the history of Iowa State football would love to have this chance. Do you seize the moment, take advantage of this opportunity, rewrite the books, and write a chapter that's never been written more? The finish of this thing is what's so important right now. November is so critical to how this team will be remembered."

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