Iowa State vs. Miami (Ohio): Quotebook

<b>AMES, IA --</b> Iowa State continues to prepare for a trip to the 2004 Independence Bowl and MAC opponent Miami of Ohio. The Cyclones will be looking to put a wrap on a remarkable turnaround season. Head coach Dan McCarney previewed the game with the local media during a special Friday afternoon press conference. Here is a transcription.

Opening comments:

"We're thrilled to get this opportunity to go down and represent Iowa State University in another part of the country for the fourth time in five years. Finals are over today. We've had six practices so far, and will take five this weekend starting this afternoon through Tuesday A.M. Then we'll get four of them in Shreveport for a total of 15 practices. I think we've gotten a lot done up to this point, and have a lot to do here in the next few days to get ready for this game."

"There aren't a lot of changes, as far as injuries go. Andy Kohler is doing some individual work. Whether he can play in the game at all down there, I don't know, but he is getting some individual work. If he comes along far enough and we can use him in the game, we're sure going to do it. Brett Kellogg probably won't play. Gabe Bakker, Brandon Brown, and Tony Yelk definitely will not. Other than that, if we can stay healthy through practice preparation for the bowl game, then we'll take a pretty healthy team into it."

"We're sure hoping that a lot of Iowa State fans will go with us. The hospitality is phenomenal down there in Shreveport. They sell a lot of things and market a lot of things, but the number one thing they have down there is unbelievable hospitality. I know that from our last experience when we played Alabama. It was sure there when I went down there for the press conference. They are really excited about Iowa State coming back to Shreveport for another game. I know there are about 61 teams in America that would like to be in our shoes right now. We're real excited about it."

"Terry Hoeppner has done a great job. Congratulations to him on the season and program he's built. He's supposed to be accepting the job at Indiana University, so congratulations to him on that job. Whether he coaches in our game or not frankly has nothing to do with our preparation or how important it is for us to win this game. There are only going to be 28 bowl champions when this bowl season is over, and we want to do everything we can to be one of those 28, and bring another bowl championship trophy back to Ames."

"We get the chance to play a team that won eight games and 21 games over the last two seasons. In their opener, they had a 14-game winning streak, and have had a six-game winning streak through the middle of the season to the end of the season. They had a tough loss in the MAC championship game, but you watch them on tape and they're very well coached and talented. They lose Ben Roethlisberger to the NFL and he's setting all kinds of records for the Steelers, then all the backup does is throw for over 3,000 yards, 62 percent completion average, and leads them to eight victories. This is a real outstanding program."

"I sense that we are continuing to improve. I like our practices so far, three in each of the last two weekends. We'll take five this weekend and get another practice a week from today here in Ames before we jump on the plane and fly to Shreveport. There is a lot of excitement around this football team. We want to finish this season on a positive note and send out our seniors in the right way."

On focus in practice through the first few:

"We did last weekend. In the first three practices that first week, we didn't know who we were going to play so it was all fundamental practices. It was ones-ones, twos-twos against each other. There was no opponent to get ready for. Last week we knew it was going to be Miami (Ohio), so we took half the practice to work against each other and half of it against Miami (Ohio).

"We will still work in our practices this weekend some best against best, and then really zero in against Miami (Ohio) and their tendencies, schemes, and what we anticipate. We'll get some extra work with those young guys like we have every practice we've had so far. Today will just be 20 minutes of some fundamental stuff and tomorrow I'll scrimmage all the young guys.

"It's not just young guys; it's guys that aren't playing. If you're not playing on gameday or not playing very much, then we want to take another evaluation of you, figure out why, and try to put you in the position to start helping this team more. It's walk-ons, redshirts, young guys, and a few old guys that aren't playing at all. That's the advantage we have going to a bowl game."

On Redhawks' blitzing defense:

"They know what they're doing and have outscored their opponents almost 32-23. Defensively, they're very aggressive and physical up front. I'm very impressed with them. The good news is we've played a very tough schedule all year, both non-conference and in the conference games, and I think it will really help us get ready for this football team."

On MU quarterback Josh Betts:

"He's tremendous and has a great arm. They run a lot of shotgun and one-back. He knows what he's doing. He's got complete control of that offense. He can throw the short routes, touch routes, can gun it, and throw it on a rope. He has really got a great arm. Three thousand yards is really amazing. What is that, 15 miles? It seems like it. That's a lot of yards, completions, touchdowns, and not many interceptions.

"A lot of Miami's turnovers came early in the year. I think they had six or seven against Michigan and five against Marshall. That was almost half of their turnovers in a couple of games. As you watch tape, they've done a better job of protecting it in recent games."

On Redhawk offense being similar to any others in Big 12:

"Not exactly, but we've seen shotgun and teams that will get back there and throw it all over. Their routes are similar in a lot of ways. But there is not one offense where you'd say it's really Missouri, Kansas State, or what Nebraska is trying to do. There is plenty of carryover from the preparation that we've had all season long."

On Hoeppner and how hard it could be to leave a program:

"It's hard to imagine it. I'm sure it's a great opportunity. He's leavng a great job for another great job. I was fairly close to it, because Bobby Elliott was a finalist. I was trying to help him get the job, like all the other guys that have worked with Bobby. It didn't work out. He was one of three finalists brought to the campus, and it went to Terry Hoeppner. He's one of the real winning coaches in all of college football in recent years."

On being an underdog against Miami (Ohio):

"I don't necessarily think it's that, as much as we won six games and they won eight. We came up short in the game a lot of people thought we should have won against Missouri. But that's a real talented football team with the best defense in the Big 12. It doesn't surprise me at all (that we're underdogs). I think it's kind of fitting for this team to start the season and finish the season as underdogs, in between tying for the Big 12 North championship and beating Nebraska and Kansas State. I'm proud of these kids and my staff."

On Tyson Smith and senior class:

"Tyson's just been a remarkable young man. Nobody says less and nobody does more for our football team. You talk about a quiet warrior on the field for us. I'm really excited that Tyson gets this opportunity, and then will get to go on and play in the Hula Bowl. He's one of those seniors that, if all of the seniors are healthy, we'll have seven seniors that will start their last game at Iowa State. We'll do everything we can to get those guys a victory. It's the last time we're all together."

On any sense of a letdown after Missouri loss:

"I don't at all. We played our tails off and so did Missouri. We lost a game and they won it. It took overtime for them to win the game. I don't sense any of that. I see our team really improving. What I've seen in the six practices so far will hopefully continue – a team that knows that we've accomplished a lot and is playing and practicing with confidence."

On improving greatly over last season:

"Before we got this whole thing going, I didn't set a bunch of goals. I gave them a T-shirt as part of their workout before the season. This was back in July with my coaches and team. It spelled out O-O-T-M-I-T-I-A. What the heck is that? It stands for ‘One of the Most Improved Teams in America.' We started talking about that last summer, and in the end of the regular season we were one of the three most improved teams in America. We get the chance to do that again on national TV at the Independence Bowl. Let's take another step towards leaving that history, chapter, and legacy with this team."

On how this can be a springboard to next season:

"There are already some things that we've accomplished this year that will springboard us. You walk down and see that Big 12 North Division championship trophy – they'll never take that away. I'll be dead and long gone, and that thing will be here for a long time. It's something we'll always be proud of. Even though we didn't go to Arrowhead Stadium, we still tied for it. Every time I walk into the office, I can't tell you how proud I am. It's on the cover of our Christmas cards, even though we can't send it to recruits. It's never happened here, ever. We've got us a beautiful trophy and it won't be the last…I can assure you of that."

On handling Bret Meyer early in the season, and how it's paid off:

"The way Todd Fitch, Barney Cotton, and all of us handled that situation was the right way to do it. We just didn't think through two-a-days that either Austin or Bret were ready for a 70- or 80-play game as a starter. That was our decision collectively, so let's let them both play, work this thing through, and let them compete and perform. For our best chance to win, we felt like that was the way to go. Before the Colorado game, I named Bret the starter, he went the distance, and has never looked back. Barring injury, it's going to be hard for anybody else to beat him out in his career."

On challenge made to non-contributors through bowl practices:

"There aren't many that we haven't. We really zeroed in on some of those guys that have been in the program for a couple years. You're not going to expect too much from a true freshman, even though we like the development of that freshman class. But if you've been in the program two years, you can look at the roster and see, let's make a move. It's time.

"How much longer are you going to wait? How many more spring balls, trips to Matt McGettigan's weight room, or meetings are you going to sit through and not play on Saturdays. If you've been in the program a couple of years and aren't playing on Saturdays, it's a disappointment. That's my approach; I don't sugarcoat anything with my players. I know some positions are easier to get on the field than others, but if you've been in the program for a couple of years, let's go. This isn't a free ride and you need to earn it. There are no giveaways."

On defensive philosophy that may be similar to opponents:

"In watching them from a style standpoint, what they like to emphasize, and how they play, they look a lot like Northern Illinois. We were a couple of touchdowns behind in that game and had to rally to beat them. They're going to a bowl game and had a great season. They remind us a lot of them in what they do. They're well coached with great fundamentals, have a lot of wins, and are going into this one as the favorite."

On any position changes made during practices:

"We're experimenting with a couple of the young guys. We're looking at Adam Carper as a linebacker instead of a defensive back, and Matthew Scherbring as an offensive lineman instead of a defensive lineman. We're still in that process. This weekend we're going to do a lot of that, not only the guys coming out of redshirts but the kids that have not played. Where can they help this team the most?"

On anything he's heard on grades:

"Some kids find out because they post them. We may hear some things over the next couple of days. We'll hear next week for sure. All of them have to be in the next week. If we lose anybody from an academic standpoint, we would know before we jump on the plane next week."

On his feelings if Stevie Hicks reached 1,000-yard rushing marker in bowl:

"It would be great. The crowning moment would be to get a bowl victory. If he gets 20 yards rushing and we win the game, I'm thrilled. If he gets a bunch of yards and we lose the game, not so fast. We're just hoping that we can go win this game.

"But Stevie has been persistent, consistent, and improved. He's not flashy and does not run away from a lot of guys, but could we have gone to postseason for the fourth time in five years without Stevie Hicks? I don't think so. He's had a real role in the development and improvement of our team this season."

On Jason Scales finding bigger role against Redhawks:

"For a true freshman to play is really tough. Whether it's blocking, assignments, ball security, or making guys miss. Jason has had six really good practices. If he continues that, I wouldn't be surprised to see him play more than he has in the last few games of the season."

On concerns of losing part of coaching staff:

"If you're a head coach and an honor like (Big 12 coach of the year), and you think it's you or you're something special, you're either selfish or stupid. This is a coaching staff of the year award. When those things happen, people take notice. You go from winless in the conference to winning the Big 12 North. If I don't have real good coaches around me, there is no chance of that. We have brought in real good coaches.

"Todd Fitch turned down an opportunity to be a Division I coordinator in the last seven days. That's tough. If you're a position coach and turn down a Division I coordinator's job. We're excited that he's staying with us, and there isn't any group more excited than our quarterbacks that he's staying with us."

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