Football Insider: Missouri Post-Game

With time to reflect on and review the Cyclones heart-breaking loss to Missouri in overtime, former offensive lineman Luke Vander Sanden evaluates the ISU effort against the Tigers.

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.



If anybody knows what this team is going through it's you after last years 0-3 start in the Big 12, emotionally where is this team right now?


This year's team heads into Saturday winless (0-3) in the Big 12 Conference race.  It is the same position that the Cyclones of 2004 were in last year.  The difference is that the Cyclones of 2005 are a couple plays away from being 3-0 in the Big 12 Race.  I reflect back to last year and we matured as a unit on offense.  I see a lot of good things from Saturday.  The ground game was very strong.  Credit the offensive line for that.  Missouri's defense likes to do a lot of line games (twisting).  It can confuse an offensive lineman if you get away from your technique.  I was really happy for the offensive line in that they established their best performance running the football.  I also liked what I saw out of Greg Coleman.  I thought he ran hard and ran to win; he broke the 100 yard barrier.  Ryan Kock was also implemented in the game a lot.  He had over 10 carries and 36 yards rushing, along with three touchdowns. 


I am frustrated, but not worried about the season.  When you look at last years first 5 games, the games we lost, we flat out lost.  The opposing team outplayed, out-coached, and out-hit us.  This year's squad is in every game.  The problem is that it seems as if we are playing not to win but playing not to lose.  The defense shuts down Brad Smith and knocks him out of the game.  We are talking about the Big 12 Conference's leading rusher.  Smith is a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare.  I thought Coach Skladany did a great job in keeping Brad Smith's abilities limited.  The only shutdown on defense was the last two drives of Missouri.  You have a back-up quarterback in Daniel that performed really well and lead the charge for Missouri.  As a team, all the intangibles are there for a great season.  They just need to finish games when the opportunities are there.  The only way they can do that is to do it and learn how to do it.  I am confident that they will find it.



What were some of the main reasons the team turned the season around last year?


Defense.  Last year's team was known for the defense.  The defense helped big time in winning a lot of the close games last year.  The defense last year was a turnover smelling unit.  I credit the defense in leading the turnaround last year.  Also, I think that the team developed an identity the week of the Colorado to the week of the Baylor game.  You look back at the Colorado game and we physically dominated them.  The problem on offense was that we could not score in the redzone, we missed 3 field goals, and we lost by 5 points. 


Then you look back at the Baylor game in Waco.  The defense scored with Brent Curvey returning a fumble for a touchdown.  Baylor went down and scored late in the 4th quarter.  Bret Meyer engineered the charge on offense and we moved the football down the field.  The offense scored and won the game.  Big time players stepped up in critical times in the game.  That is what I think is lacking this year.  The big time players are not stepping up in critical times in the game.  The offense needs to put up 7 points in overtime.  That puts less pressure on the defense.  You look at Bret Culbertson's field goal in overtime.  It wasn't even close.  It was as wide right as you can get.  I remember talking with my guys last year and telling them a team doesn't and shouldn't rely on field goals to win games. 



Do you think that this team will be able to pull of a run like that?


I don't see why this team won't be able to pull a run like last year.  You look at the personnel on the team this year.  Almost everyone is back from last year's squad.  I think that is why so many people are disappointed up to this point of the season.  I reflect back on last year's games.  We won so many close games.  Some teams were Nebraska, Baylor, Kansas, and K-State, to name a few.  This year, Nebraska got us in the close game, and Baylor got us in a close game.  The remainder of the schedule for the Cyclones is going to be full of close games.  What is going to determine the outcome of those games is who wants it more and who executes a complete game.



As a player how much more frustrating is it losing by a play or two rather than being blown out?

As a former player, I always looked at it as a loss is a loss.  People always talk about if you would rather win ugly or lose pretty.  Well, if you have any kind of competitive nature about yourself, I hope you say win ugly.  Obviously, losing is frustrating in both senses.  I think when you lose by getting blown out, it really puts salt in the wound.  When you lose by a couple of plays, you are sick to your stomach.  But in the same sense, you also can find a lot of positives from the game.  Vince Lombardi once said, "Winning isn't a sometime thing here, it's an all-the-time thing."  Losing stinks, it hurts, and it's not acceptable under any Coach's program.    


Which areas do you see the Cyclones consistently making mistakes?


One big part of the game that I see the Cyclones of 2005 making mistakes is the beginning of games.  I have yet to see the Clones start the game off fast.  I haven't seen the offense command a first series of the game drive down the field.  I haven't seen the defense play "lights out" from the start.  As a football team, you always want to start the game fast.  You want to be the team delivering the blows.  You want to be the team that has the momentum from the start.  We need to make more big plays when we are in position to make them.  This could be a key tackle on special teams, a big time block to help the back go the extra distance, a critical throw on 3rd down, or a big time play on defense.


Another let down of the team this year is the offense's ball security.  Look at the Missouri game and the Cyclones gave up and interception returned for a touchdown.  The next series was a fumble recovered and returned for a touchdown by Missouri.  We have got to be able to protect the football on offense and get turnovers on defense.  This will be critical in the outcome of games this year for the Cyclones.

The last big thing that I see a consistent pattern in with the Cyclones this year is the let down at the end of the game.  The inability to finish games that they are in position to win.  This aspect is definitely the difference of the Cyclones being 6-0 versus 3-3 this year.



The past couple of games it really seems like the offensive line is coming together. Give us an assessment of the line through the first six games.


They started really come together and gel this past week at Missouri.  You can look back at game film and see Greg Coleman cracking out 5 yards a pop on run plays.  When you run line games as much as Missouri does, your running back will naturally have creases and openings to jam the ball in to get yards.  I think consistency is the big key for the hog-maulies up front.  If they can keep their play consistent, all five guys, I think they will help carry the offense along throughout the season.



The past two weekends the defense hasn't been able to make a stand on the final plays of the game, do you think they're worn out or is it just mental lapses?


This is just a mental thing.  It's about guys stepping up and being playmakers.  It is discipline from players.  I guarantee to any fan it is not an issue of being worn out.  Coach Mac works his players hard, but takes care of them too.



What needs to happen this week for this team to turn its season around with Oklahoma State coming to Ames.


I think the biggest things the Cyclones need to do are the following:


          -Ball security on offense

          -Turnovers on defense

          -Will of teammates to win

          -Dominate the lines of scrimmage

          -Aggressive Coaching and Playing for 4 quarters

          -Relax, play football, and have fun

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