ISU Happy to be back in Shreveport

<b>AMES, IA --</b> It will be a different team and a different year, but Iowa State will be heading back to Shreveport this month to take care of some unfinished business. Instead of a Southeastern Conference foe like Alabama, the opponent this time around is Miami (Ohio) of the Mid-American Conference, which drew an at-large bid from the bowl.

Either way, the Cyclones are looking to leave Shreveport with a different taste in their mouths, which wasn't the sentiment when Tony Yelk's field goal was ruled no good in the 2001 game with the Crimson Tide.

"They know an awful lot about us," said ISU head coach Dan McCarney, who will be guiding the program to its fourth bowl game in five seasons. "It's not unfamiliar territory. They know the Iowa State family, fans, and the program we have. They talk about the character, integrity, class, and enthusiasm of the fans. I could hear we got a standing ovation when we accepted the invitation to go down there. We're real excited about this game. We've got a great Big 12 North co-championship trophy and we're going to go down there trying to bring a bowl championship trophy home.

"We had an unbelievably tough loss down there the last time. It went down to the last play of the game. I still think that kick was good. I still disagree with that ACC official that was underneath that upright that said it was no good. The best memory I have down there is the hospitality of the Independence Bowl people."

The Independence Bowl will kick off on December 29th at 5:30 p.m. Miami (Ohio) enters the game with an 8-4 overall record and fresh off a MAC seasons that produced seven wins in eight games.

ISU looked to be headed for the Houston Bowl one day later, but Texas moved past Cal into one of two BCS at-large berths. All of the bowl-eligible Big 12 teams moved up one spot on the pecking order, with the Cyclones landing in Shreveport instead of Houston.

Much of Sunday's news came last minute, since all involved in the process were waiting to see what happened with the BCS. Van De Velde said he received his first inclination of Shreveport during an afternoon phone conversation with Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg.

"About 3 o'clock this afternoon, Kevin Weiberg, our commissioner and the head of the BCS called me," ISU's athletic director said. "He said we weren't supposed to make any formal announcements, but it looked like with the way the votes were coming in from the polls that Texas was going to overtake California.

"The Independence Bowl, which has the fifth pick, was really hot after Iowa State. They really wanted to pursue Iowa State, and picked ahead of Houston, so we needed to be prepared to get a phone call from the Independence Bowl. That's what happened about 4 o'clock today. When Texas jumped past Cal for two spots in the BCS from the Conference, then everybody moved up. We went from being the sixth pick to the fifth pick."

Even though much of the fan base had already started preparing for a trip to the Lone Star State, McCarney says Sunday's news did not come as a disappointment.

"It's not a letdown at all," he said. "The Independence Bowl has a higher pick and felt real strong about Iowa State. That's why they wanted us. It's not one bit of a letdown. It's a great town and great place. We're going to do everything we can to take a huge following of Iowa State fans down there. They embraced us about as good as any place I've ever been."

For an ISU program that endured a 2-10 freefall in 2003, a trip to the postseason appeared to be good news.

"Anytime you come off a season like we did last year, any type of bowl game was going to be a blessing for us," said senior captain Ellis Hobbs. "All we wanted to do was go back. That feeling was taken away from us last year. We wanted to put ourselves in the position. We were happy to get to a bowl game, and whatever one we got we're going to do our best."

McCarney echoed those sentiments.

"It feels great," ISU's head coach said. "We weren't supposed to be here. Nobody expected us to be here. This was supposed to be a work in progress, but we're here and proud of it. We're absolutely ecstatic. Iowa State going to four bowls in the last five years? Who are we kidding? This is the smallest budget and smallest stadium in the Big 12 Conference. We're going to represent this conference and our fans and this University in another place. This is what it's all about. Let's go win a football game."

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