Football Insider: Independence Bowl Post-Game

Iowa State's remarkable 2004 turnaround reached a new level in Shreveport with a 17-13 victory over Miami (Ohio). With time to reflect on and review the great finish to the season, former wide receiver Jack Whitver evaluates the effort.

Iowa State from 1999-2003. The former walk-on wide receiver from Grinnell was twice named an academic All-American, a three-time ISU scholar-athlete award winner, and earned his undergraduate degree from ISU in just three years. Whitver finished his career eighth on ISU's all-time receptions list and 10th all-time in receiving yardage. He now provides exclusive analysis each week here at CycloneNation.com.

CN: Start out by giving us some of your overall thoughts on Iowa State's huge victory in the Independence Bowl?

Whitver: I was very impressed at how the guys came out and played. I thought they looked confident from the beginning and expected to win. The offensive line had their best game of the year and Stevie Hicks played his best game as a Cyclone. Coach Mac and his staff have done a great job the second half of the year at getting the team ready to play. If Coach Mac wants to take the Cyclones to another level, these are the games that he has to win. Overall, I thought it was a pretty solid win and a great way to head into the offseason.

CN: Where should this – ISU's second in school history – rank in all of the wins on head coach Dan McCarney's resume?

Whitver: Anytime you win a bowl game it is something to remember forever. The feeling in the locker room after a bowl win is a great feeling. Because Iowa State has only won two bowl games in their history, this has to rank in the top 10. However, Miami of Ohio is not exactly a top name program in the country. While they have won a lot of games in the past few years, they are still a team that Big 12 and Big 10 teams schedule to open the season. Coach Mac has beaten ranked teams, including handing Iowa their only loss of the season in 2002. While any bowl win is to be put on the resume, some of the bigger name wins are probably higher.

CN: What were some of the biggest factors in the Cyclones' 17-13 victory over Miami of Ohio?

Whitver: The biggest factor was the domination of the line of scrimmage. The Cyclones dominated the line on both sides of the ball and really controlled the running game. It has been a long time since both lines have played a game like that, and the good news is that most of the guys are back next year.

CN: As a sophomore on the team that played in Shreveport in 2001, how did it make you feel to see this Cyclone team pull this Independence Bowl out?

Whitver: I was so happy to see the Cyclones pull this one out, especially for the older players and the fans that were there in 2001. That was a loss that was very tough to take and took a long time to get over. I am so proud of the guys on this year's team at how they pulled together and won games that nobody thought they could win.

Although I couldn't get away from my new business long enough to make the trip, my parents went down and said the Iowa State turnout was pretty good. It is always nice to see a good following for the Cyclone teams. Good programs travel well to bowl games, no matter who they are playing or where they are playing, and if we want to take the program to another level, we have got to travel well.

CN: How much of this win was about a promising 2005 season as it was a senior class and this 2004?

Whitver: The two things you just mentioned are the two most important parts of a bowl game like this. It is so important to the seniors to go off on a winning note and end their careers with a win. It is also just as important to head into the off-season with a good taste in your mouth and head into 2005 on a confident note. Anymore, the bowl games (with the exception of the national title game) are like the first game of the next season. I know that a bowl win will give the younger guys a ton of confidence heading into next season.

CN: Having been a part of past bowl teams at ISU, go through all of the advantages of 15 bowl practices.

Whitver: That is one of the biggest advantages of going to a bowl game. People don't realize how much good work a team gets by having those extra practices. For about half of those practices you don't know who your opponent is going to be. Because of that, the practices are very competitive with the 1's vs. 1's, 2's vs. 2's and 3's vs. 3's. It is especially important for the young guys who spent the entire regular season on the scout team.

In the bowl practices they get about seven practices playing competitive football again. On top of that, it is also a great time for the coaches to experiment with position changes. The bowl practices are when both Casey Shelton and Cale Stubbe moved from defensive line to offensive line.

CN: ISU dominated with its ground attack, featuring Stevie Hicks and Bret Meyer who rushed for over 100 yards in the game. What do you feel the team saw in the Redhawk's rush defense?

Whitver: I don't think they saw anything in particular. I think it was simply our guys up front were better than their's and better coached. Coach Cotton finally got the boys up front playing together and dominating a game. It is too bad that we are losing Stubbe and Luke Vander Sanden, but we have a few young guys that are really starting to play well. With three sophomores coming back next year on the line, I would be very disappointed to not have a great running game next year.

CN: How would you grade the job done by the offensive line?

Whitver: They did such a great job this game I would give them the MVP of the game. While Bret Meyer ran the ball well, he didn't have his best game throwing the ball. Stevie also played great, but he reaped the benefits of great blocking. The line played its best game of the year and deserve to get recognition for the win.

CN: The defense did a great job against a team that had averaged nearly 33 points a game. What kind of gameplan did coordinator John Skladany come up with for Miami?

Whitver: I think he kept his game plan pretty similar to normal, but the defensive line put a lot of pressure on the quarterback without help from the linebackers. Anytime you can put pressure on the QB with just your front four, you have a great chance to shut down the opponents passing game. I think the Cyclones were able to drop more guys into coverage and shut down the Redhawks passing attack.

I think Coach Skladany did a great job all year of game planning and getting the defense ready to play. He is a very good coach who takes a lot of pride in his defense. He cares so much about winning and I think he did his best coaching job yet at Iowa State. He proved that if you give him some talent, he can game plan with the best of them. Coach Mac will be lucky to keep him around much longer.

CN: Who were some of your defensive MVPs, and why?

Whitver: I think Tyson Smith played really well and ended his Cyclone career on a good note. As I just mentioned above, the defensive line played well and Tyson Smith played a great game. Ellis Hobbs also played a real good game, and his interception at the end of the game was a play that you would expect a great player like Ellis to make. He has a bright future ahead of him in football.

CN: Finally, how much different will this offseason be compared to last year's when ISU didn't make postseason play?

Whitver: First of all, there will be a lot more optimism and confidence going into next year. With so many players coming back, they will have the biggest expectations for a Cyclone team since Seneca Wallace was a senior. The big difference is that we still have the favorable schedule next year. With Oklahoma and Texas still missing from the schedule, we are in a lot better position to win a lot of games.

This offseason is going to seem very short to the players because normally they have been lifting hard for over a month at this point. Coach Mac is very close to having a great team for next year. If we can find one or two good offensive linemen, we should be in a good position for next. I think we have the talent in the program and I think two will definitely step up.

Coach Mac did his best job of coaching since he has been at Iowa State and led the team to their first conference title of any kind in a long time. Even so, the Cyclones could have won a few more games and been even better. With the talent Mac is getting into the program, Cyclone fans have got to be excited for 2005.

CycloneNation.com Insider Jack Whitver is currently a partner in Acceleration Iowa. Feel free to visit his website at Acceleration Iowa


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