McCarney Big 12 Teleconference

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney met with the Big 12 media via teleconference Monday morning to discuss the Cyclones' memorable come-from-behind victory over Kansas State, and to look ahead to the team's final regular season game against Missouri. Here are some highlights.

Opening comments:

"I'm extremely proud of my staff and team. It was a great victory for us over one of the most respected programs in America in Kansas State. Bill Snyder has done a marvelous job for many years down there. It was a great victory for us to go on the road. We were down 23-9 with about 11 minutes to go in the game, and we outscored them 28-0 to come from behind to win. It was a great example of persistence, resolve, and confidence in one another that we could come back and win.

"We've got a very talented Missouri football team coming in. Gary Pinkel has done a great job with his program down there. No question, he's got his best defense since he's been at Missouri and one of the most talented quarterbacks in all of college football in Brad Smith. We're going to have a real challenge with Missouri. There always seems to be some great football games since I've been here, with the exception of last year when it was a complete blowout and they beat us 45-7 at the end of the season. We've had many great football games with Missouri over the years and we fully expect one here Saturday."

On how special Kansas State win was:

"It was really big for our season and program. Kansas State has just dominated Iowa State through the years, and frankly, there haven't been many good games. There was a time in that game where it could have gone the other direction for Iowa State, but these kids wouldn't give in to the adversity and getting behind. They fought, scratched, and clawed to come back and win it. Hopefully we'll continue to build on it. We're improving each week and there is some clear evidence of that. Hopefully we'll continue to do that this week, and get another week of good preparation in."

On keeping kids' feet on the ground and heads out of the clouds:

"I don't think so. It goes right back to the leadership we have on this team, and respect we have for Gary Pinkel, the Missouri football team, and program. We know this is going to be a hard and physical game. There is a lot on the line and we have a lot to play for, but so does Missouri. We know it's going to be a tremendous football game."

On him possibly being a Nebraska fan on Friday:

"As I told the kids last night, in all honesty, whatever happens on Friday really has nothing to do with what we have to do here Saturday. The bottom line is if we can win one more football game in the regular season, we're Big 12 North champs. It's the first title of any kind that Iowa State will have had since 1912. That's an awful lot of incentives. We'll watch the scores if we get a chance. Our preparation will be all day on Friday. We'll watch a little bit of the game, but the most important thing is how we play on Saturday and trying to win our football game."

On problems with Pinkel's Missouri program, and getting up for this game:

"I can't control their end of it or their preparation, emotions, or focus. I just know that this is a team that beat us 45-7 last year, and many of the players return. I think 13 starters and almost the entire defense. It's clearly one of the best defenses in the conference. I think we all know that. They're number one in total defense, number one in pass defense, and number three in scoring defense. This is Gary's best defense, without question.

"I think Brad Smith is one of the real dynamic players in all of college football. I have since he started playing as a freshman at Missouri. We're going to have our hands full, I know that much.

"They have lost some very tough, hard-fought, close games. Three points to an outstanding Oklahoma State team. Eight points to a top-10 Texas team. There are some real tough football games. I know they're very capable of beating anybody, and especially Iowa State if we're not ready to play."

On any comparisons to other situations he's been a part of:

"The only other places I was at was Iowa with Hayden Fry and Wisconsin with Barry (Alvarez). I can't remember specifically which year, but I know there were times similar to this. You know if we can just start eliminating mistakes, keep believing, experience some success with young kids as I've got lots of freshmen and sophomores, if they get something to show for their hard work then you've got a chance to build on it.

"You go back to the Colorado game. We put up over 400 yards of offense and really played an excellent football game in a lot of ways, but our kicking game was horrendous. We looked like clowns as coaches and players. It cost us that football game. We came out of the Colorado game knowing that we improved and did a lot of things well against a very good Colorado team.

"Even in a loss out there, we felt like Iowa State clearly beat Iowa State. We dropped two punts and gave them 10 points. We missed a 22- and 23-yard field goal, and Mason Crosby hits a 60- and 54-yarder. We lose by five points. You can't win football games, home or away, doing that. We've never looked back since then. It was a loss, but I knew we got better that week and knew we had a chance to win some games.

"We've been on a roll since then. In recent weeks we've been real good (in turnover margin). We've forced 17 takeaways and only given up four in the last four games. It sure has made a difference."

On differences in this team's ability to force turnovers, and others that haven't:

"We started to get some in the Northern Illinois game and scored twice on defense. Ever since that game, we've been able to get them out, and are much better than we were a year ago. We've been more opportunistic. We're second in the country to Miami right now with seven non-offensive touchdowns that have been scored. That's your kicking game and defense. When those things happen, kids expect it, believe in it, and know how it's done. Those kind of things have snowballed, and it's one of the real reasons we've been able to win some games in recent weeks."

On sharing his emotions with players and effectiveness of it:

"I learned this years and years ago, and it's one of the things I learned from Hayden Fry. I'm not saying my personality is Hayden Fry's personality, but one of the many things he taught me was to be myself and not try to be someone else. We're all sponges and learn from some of the many great coaches that have been in this profession, but I've just tried to be myself.

"I've tried to be as honest as I can with my players. If some coaches show some emotion and some don't, I'm not going to try and hide it. If there is emotion there, that's the way it is. If you understand it, accept it, believe it, can relate to it, and trust it as a player, then you have a chance to get the most out of the young people you work with. I'm not afraid to show emotion with my players or with anybody else. It was a pretty special moment for us Saturday and we hope to build on it."

On health of the team going into the Missouri game:

"It's probably the best of all season, as far as not having to lose anybody. We've clearly been hit with some of our really top seniors. Twenty-one seniors will play their last game here at Jack Trice Saturday, but a number of those kids won't be able to play because of some injuries. There were no new ones on Saturday. We fully expect Tyson Smith to be back this week. Whether he'll play 10, 20, or 50 plays, I have no idea. But he will practice this week and get a chance to play his last game in Jack Trice. We're real happy for that."

On the play of defense overall, and especially kids who subbed in for injured players:

"They all did some good things. We weren't as good against the rush as we needed to be, and we had some uncharacteristic missed tackles. But Darren Sproles had something to do with that. He's one of the truly outstanding players in the history of the Big 12 Conference. But in the end we made a lot of big plays. We forced four turnovers, scored on defense, and had a couple of fourth-down stops. Those things give you a chance to win games.

"With Brandon Brown and Tyson Smith out of the lineup, those are two of your best players on the entire defense. I can't say enough about how kids have stepped it up. Cephus Johnson and Jamarr Buchanan have bought into this team concept – we're going to win as a team. The next guy has to be ready to go, step in there, and try to carry for our football team at their position."

On tailback Stevie Hicks approaching 1,000 rushing yards:

"It's a couple of things. We're getting better in the offensive line. It's not the wall of granite right now, but we are getting better and improving. Stevie is getting better. But it's the entire unit. It's the receivers, tight ends, and offensive line. Those guys are growing, getting better, and are understanding what you have to do. We still have all kinds of room to improve. Every phase of our football team has a lot of room to grow and improve. I think the players really understand that, and that's what makes it exciting."

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