Football insider Jack Whitver takes a look at Iowa State's second road game of the year, when the Cyclones travel to a hostile Nebraska environment on Saturday afternoon.
Jack Whitver played football at
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.
Start out with your thoughts on
State's 28-21 victory over Army. Which
areas of Iowa
State's game concerned you and what
were some bright spots in the Cyclones hard-fought
obviously a hard fought victory and anytime you come home from a road trip
victorious, you have to be happy. Army was a very physical, disciplined team.
They deserved a tremendous amount of credit for their effort in the game. I
think Bobby Ross is doing an outstanding job at West
hopefully they will win a few games this year.
ISU fan, I was getting nervous in the fourth quarter. After such an impressive
performance against Iowa, is
was a little disappointing to see such a close game. I would love to see the
Cyclones dominate a game the way they are supposed to on the road. Great teams
do not let inferior teams hang around with them.
a little concerned about the rushing game. We could not sustain drives with our
running attack. Obviously the loss of Stevie had something to do with it, but
our #2 back should be able to step in and run the ball.
also a little concerned about the defense. For the first time this year, the
defense didn't force many turnovers (after the two interceptions on the first
two drives). As the game progressed, Army was able to move the ball on well
executed plays. The Cyclones will not be able to force five turnovers every
game. They need to be able to stop a team and force them to punt. I would have
liked to see more three and outs, especially against an offensive line that
averaged 270 lbs.
conclusion, it was great to go on the road and pick up an important victory. The
Cyclones must continue to get better as they head into the Big 12 games. They
have a tough schedule ahead of them and will need to continue to improve if they
are going to accomplish everything we hope they can.
State team do you think we'll see in
Lincoln on Saturday afternoon? The team
that beat Iowa 23-3 or the team that had
troubles with Illinois
trend this year has been to play to the level of competition. I would expect to
see the team that dominated Iowa, and
that team will need to show up to win in Lincoln. It
is extremely difficult to win at Nebraska, and
the Cyclones will need to bring everything to the table this
Nebraska's strength has to be its
defense, which is giving up 5.3 points per game. How should ISU go about
attacking the Blackshirts?
don't put a whole lot of stock in statistics until the middle of the conference
season. Nebraska has
not played a good offense yet, which could be a big reason for their great
defensive statistics. I watched a game last night with one of the best scoring
offenses in the country - Toledo. I
think they were averaging around 50 points a game to this point. Last night they
struggled to score 14. I just think that until a team has played 2-3 conference
games, it is impossible to tell about a team based on
think the Cyclones will throw the ball a lot this weekend. With the
inconsistency in the running game to this point, I would expect a game plan that
has the passing game setting up the run game. I believe that ISU has a personnel
advantage with their receivers over Nebraska's
defensive backs. Much like last year, when Meyer threw for over 300 yards, I
would expect the Cyclones to put the ball in Meyer's hands a lot. I think they
will try to get Bret out of the pocket to avoid the blitz and let him find the
open receivers when he is rolling out.
the Cyclones can get the passing game going, which will lead to a successful
running game. I believe that if the Cyclones are to win the game, they will need
to throw for over 250 yards. With Stevie at less than 100%, this will determine
the outcome of the game.
If Stevie Hicks is unable to play
on Saturday, do you think we'll see more of a passing attack from the Cyclones?
What is the best way to beat this Nebraska team? Iowa State's rushing
offense is last in the league, averaging 110.7 yards a game; while the Nebraska
defense is No. 2 in the Big 12, allowing only 79.3 yards per contest.
think that even if Stevie is healthy, ISU will need to throw the ball to win.
always had a real good front seven, but I think their back four is where the
Cyclones have an advantage. If the o-line can protect Meyer in the pocket and
when he rolls out, I believe that the receivers can get open. I am sure that the
Cyclones are confident that they can throw the ball, given the success last
Nebraska's offense has struggled early
this season. What kind of approach do you think the Huskers will take,
offensively, in this game? Do they go to their ground game or will it be an
think Nebraska will
continue to get the passing game going.
They haven't shown much wavering in what they want to do offensively. I
think they probably feel pretty confident throwing the ball after watching the
first three ISU games. ISU has been beat deep a couple of times and Army
completed several passes against the Cyclones. With the way ISU likes to blitz,
expect a few screen plays from the Huskers. Army executed several screen plays
for 15-25 yard gains. I would expect to see much of the same offense that
Callahan has used in his first 14 games as head coach for the
How do you think
State's defense stacks up against the
think both teams have good defenses; however both teams still have a few
questions to answer on the defensive side of the ball. The Cyclones have shown that they can
have a dominating defense at times. They simply need to be consistent game in
and game out. Great defenses do not play to their level of competition and I
would love to see the Cyclones put on a great defensive display week in and week
Blackshirts, in my opinion, have yet to be game tested by a great offense. Whether
that great offense is yet to be determined, but
simply hasn't played an offense with a pulse.
think the strength of both teams lies with their defense. The defense that can
force turnovers and put their offense in good field position will go a long way
towards determining the winner of this contest.
Which player do you expect to have
a big game for Iowa
is going to win, it is going to have to be Bret Meyer. He will probably be asked
to do a lot for the offense. For all of the reasons I talked about above, Meyer
will have to be able to move the chains for the offense. He has got to be
confident after last year's game, so hopefully he will have another great game
What is the atmosphere like in
Memorial Stadium? The sea of red has to be very intimidating for the
opposition. What other atmospheres
does it rival?
is where Nebraska has a
considerable advantage. Memorial Stadium is one of the two toughest places to
play in the Big 12 (along with Oklahoma).
There are some fantastic stadiums in the Big 12, but Memorial is the loudest and
player, the hardest thing about playing at Nebraska is
that the fans are right on top of you. There is a big difference when they are
right on top of you and can reach out and touch you. Memorial Stadium is similar
to Kinnick Stadium in that there is not much room between the field and the
are other stadiums in the Big 12 with huge crowds and great traditions, but the
crowd is back away from the players.
Two good examples are Texas A&M and
of these schools have a great environment and huge crowds, but there is a 10-15
yard gap from the fans to the bench (as opposed to 2 feet at Kinnick). With a
lot of room between the players and the crowd, it allows the players to get
State hasn't had success in
Lincoln since 1977. A win this Saturday
would have to do wonders for the Cyclones confidence with the majority of ISU's
Big 12 games on the road. Just how big of victory would this be early in the Big
12 season for Iowa
Coach Mac's time at Iowa
has tried to accomplish things that haven't been accomplished at
State in a
long time. It seems every year the Cyclones are doing things that haven't been
done in a long, long time. This is
just another one of those streaks that the Cyclones will be trying to
at Nebraska this
weekend would be extremely important for the confidence of the players. Getting
a win in the toughest environment in the conference would go a long ways the
rest of the season.
think bigger than the confidence issue, a win this weekend would give ISU huge
conferences win. This is one of the two toughest road games of the season (with
Texas A&M). The Big 12 North title has traditionally had to go through
if we can come home with a victory, that would give us the early advantage in
the Big 12 North.
State's win over the Huskers last
season and during 2002, a game you were a part of. What did those victories mean
to the program? How did it rate in all of the victories you were a part of? What
was the post-game locker room like?
were very big wins for the Cyclone program. The win in 2002 was big because we
hadn't beaten Nebraska in 10
years. It was the first time that we showed the Big 12 Conference that we were a
team to be reckoned with. Although
it was an extremely gratifying win, the game was not really in doubt in the
second half. It wasn't nearly as good as the come from behind victory against
some of the close wins we had in my career.
biggest thing I remember from the post-game celebration in 2002 is that it was
bittersweet. It was great to win the game, but we lost Luke Vander Sanden, one
of our best linemen, to a broken leg. He had just come back to the line-up after
a broken ankle, and then he got hurt again. It was bittersweet because I knew he
was a huge reason we one that game. With the lack of depth on the line, I knew
it could be a tough road ahead.
win last year was also important in that it let the Cyclones control their own
destiny in the Big 12 North. It gave the guys a lot of confidence and they
obviously used that confidence to become co-champs of the
Finally, what are a few keys to
victory against the Huskers?
Make it 4 quarters.
have not made this a four quarter game in Lincoln in a
long time. Nebraska has
historically jumped all over us and road the early success to a big win. The
Cyclones must come out strong, start fast, and stay in the game during the first
half. This will be the first time in at least 6 years that we will be taking an
experienced quarterback into Lincoln. In
the past three trips to Lincoln, ISU
has started a QB that had never started in that type of environment (Sage in
1999, Seneca in 2001, and Austin in 2003). Hopefully as somebody who has played
in that type of environment before, Bret will start the game
traditionally had very good special teams. They have used big special teams
plays to jump all over the Cyclones in the past. With
having such an ineffective offense to this point, it is important that the
Huskers do not score with their special teams.
Blackshirts have been one of the best teams in the country at not only forcing
turnovers, but scoring on defense. The Cyclones have to feel good about shutting
down the non-existent Husker offense, but it is important that the ISU offense
does not turn the ball over and give the Huskers good field position, or worse,
points with their defense.
think if the Cyclones can do the three things listed above, they will have an
outstanding chance to win the game. With a big part of the country watching,
let's hope the Cyclones can come out, get a win, and establish themselves as the
team to beat in the Big 12 North.