Football Insider: Nebraska Post-game

With time to reflect on and review the Cyclones heartbreak in Lincoln, former offensive lineman Luke Vander Sanden evaluates the ISU effort against Nebraska.

Luke Vander Sanden was an offensive lineman on the ISU football team from 2000-2004. The Inwood native was a two-time academic all-Big 12 first team performer and won the ISU all-around Academic Achievement Award in 2003. On the grid iron, Vander Sanden was an honorable mention all-Big 12 selection his senior season and was one of Iowa State's four team captains on the 2004 Independence Bowl championship squad.

 

How about starting out with some overall comments from the Husker game?

 

The game this past weekend against Nebraska is definitely a tough one to swallow.  Iowa State put themselves in many chances to win the game.  I can think of many instances.  The first one is when R.J. Sumrall was in a footrace to the end zone on a pass from Cyclone quarterback Bret Meyer.  Sumrall got caught from behind and Iowa State got three points out of it from Bret Culbertson.  Then you look at Culbertson's kick.  If good, there would not have been overtime, and it would have been the first Cyclone victory in Lincoln since 1977.

 

You can look at DeAndre Jackson's fumble recovery late in the 4th quarter when Zac Taylor and company from Nebraska are driving to win the game.  DeAndre was in perfect position to "scoop and score."  What happened?  DeAndre could not get a handle on it and had to corral the ball. 

 

You look at Nick Leader's chance to intercept screen pass during overtime.  He almost had it…just slipped through his hands. We all can say coulda shoulda woulda.

 

What I am saying, is that there is no reason that Iowa State should have lost this game.  There were many chances that the Cyclones could have made the "play" to win the game.  It all comes down to players making the plays when they need to be made the most.  There is an old saying that goes, "big time players make big time plays."  Those people that I talked about earlier are all big time players.  They just couldn't quite make the big time plays to help ISU win.

 

 

What kinds of feelings ran through you on that final ISU play in double overtime?

 

There were a lot of feelings running through my mind during ISU's final play in double overtime.  I remember our final game versus Mizzou during overtime last year.  A lot of players from that season are playing big roles on this year's team.  I knew that the players would come out and play hungry for the win.  It was a terrible feeling from a year ago. 

 

I guarantee that the players approached overtime, not wanting to let it happen again.  Sitting at home watching on the big screen, it was hard for me to watch the final series for Iowa State in double overtime.  I hope the team realizes that they were a couple plays away from winning the game prior to overtime.  We just didn't execute.

 

 

How does the ISU defense stack up against the Nebraska Blackshirts?

 

It is hard to say what "Blackshirts" are; I would like a definition for that name.  I played against Nebraska when they called themselves the "Blackshirt" defense and they were salty.  Nebraska's defense has faced a Maine offense, a disappointing Pittsburgh team, a Wake Forest offense, and a sluggish performance by the Iowa State offense. 

 

So who is to say that they dominated a game against a powerful offense?  I am going to decline to comment on how good the Nebraska defense is until they play a great offense before I call them the "Blackshirt" defense.

 

I cannot compare defenses because they both used two completely different game plans.  I definitely think that Iowa State has more playmakers on defense.

 

 

In what areas does the defense need to continue to work on?

 

I was disappointed on how Zac Taylor was throwing the ball all over the field on Saturday against the Iowa State defense.  This year's defense for Iowa State is supposed to be the best in Mac's era.  Iowa State's defense made Mr. Taylor look like a first team All-American.  The defense just needs to go back to film and study, correct, and be critical about the mistakes they made on Saturday.

 

 

How would you assess the ISU offensive line at this point in the season?

 

I think the offensive line is coming around.  I still haven't seen a dominating rushing performance, and that all starts with the offensive line.  I know Stevie Hicks has been hampered by an undisclosed injury.  Stevie definitely helps Iowa State's offense tremendously.  When Stevie goes out, the next in line has to step up!  I thought Greg Coleman did a nice job running the ball hard. 

 

Reporters always criticized the offensive line last year when I played.  What a lot of people don't realize is that it takes a while for five guys on the offensive line to gel together.  One blocking scheme takes everyone doing their job upfront. 

 

I am not worried about them coming along.  I do think the guys up front need to say enough is enough and start running the football like a Big 12 offense.  I look for Aaron Brant to get this crew fired up.

 

 

Evaluate the play of quarterback Bret Meyer, who had his second straight 300 plus game against the Huskers.

 

I think Bret continues to do a great job.  You have to credit his receiving corps for getting to an open spot for Bret to throw the ball.  I always liked playing beside Bret because he is a natural leader on offense.  He wills the people around him to make plays.  He gets after guys if they need to pick it up. 

 

I think Bret looked really good considering it was his first time playing at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.  The exciting thing for Cyclone fans is that he will only continue to get better.  In my opinion, he will definitely be a player like Texas' Vince Young.  It is just a matter of how soon.

 

 

Both teams obviously struggled with their running game, running for less than 100 yards combined. What is going on with the Cyclones ground game?

 

As a former offensive lineman for the Cyclones, I was disappointed to see the offensive line struggle to run the ball again.  I think it all comes down to attitude.  I think the guys need to develop more of a nasty attitude.  An attitude that they are going to get the job done running the ball.  How does that happen?  It is an adjective for an offense line; it is called PHYSICAL.  I think the offensive line needs to be more physical in the trenches.  The lines in the trenches always determine the outcome of the game.  It does not help when you have one of the best backs in Stevie Hicks out for the game.

 

 

With Steve Hicks' health in question, how does this change the look of the ISU offense? Talk about the play of Greg Coleman in Saturday's game.

 

Stevie is definitely an asset to Iowa State's offense.  I think it hurts the offense.  Greg Coleman needs to step it up another notch.  There cannot be a drop-off because Stevie is out.  Hick's is a huge presence on offense.  The injury supposedly happened in training camp and still is undisclosed. 

 

I thought that Greg Coleman did a nice job stepping in on Saturday.  He does not have the most speed in the world, but he is a hard-nosed, tough guy.  Coleman did not have huge, gaping holes to run through on Saturday.  I think the offensive line will determine where the Cyclone offense will head without the presence of Hicks on the field.

 

 

What's the best approach to take with this team fresh off a devastating double overtime loss such as this one?

 

I think the best thing the team needs to do is go back to practice and film, and be critical on their performance.  They need to correct mistakes they made, whether it is a mistake in technique, a mental assignment, or an effort issue.  I look for this team to come out this coming Saturday with more fight, more determination, and more grit to do something about it.  The worst thing that the players can do is to dwell on Saturday's outcome.  If this happens, I guarantee it will affect the performance and outcome of the game this Saturday against a much improved Baylor Bear team.

 

 

What things will Iowa State have to do to bounce back and get a win over an improved Baylor squad?

 

-Correct mistakes in practice

-Practice with a bitter taste in their mouth

-"Big Time" plays out of "Big Time" players

-More physical in the play of the offensive line

-Protect Bret Meyer

-Ball security

-Win the field position battle

-Win Special Teams


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