Football Insider: Kansas Pre-game

Football insider Jack Whitver takes a look at the Iowa State - Texas A&M football game as Iowa State tries to end the regular season with five straight wins.

With Kansas still fighting to become Bowl eligible and the Cyclones battling to win the North division and be invited to a top-notch bowl, could this be one of the biggest games in Iowa State history?

I don't know about one of the biggest, but I think it could be one of the most exciting. I will be at the game and I think it is going to be an exciting atmosphere. I would guess Kansas will put a lot of people in the stands and I hope ISU fans will come down for the game. I think it is great to see an ISU-KU game on November 26 mean so much. As a fan and a player, this is one of the games you really look forward to.


How do players block out all the Bowl talk and remain focused on the task at hand?


I think Coach Mac does an outstanding job of telling the players what is on the line. He is as good as any one I know at talking to the players and explaining the situation. He will not let these players look ahead to another game. Frankly, I don't know what they would be looking ahead to because they don't even know when their next game is or where it will be played.


If Colorado beats Nebraska on Friday, will it take a little wind out of the player's sails knowing they won't have a chance to play for the North division title?


No, I don't think it will. They are still playing to be one of the best teams in the history of ISU. In one hundred years of football, ISU has only had one team (2000) who has been able to win 9 games. To be the second team in the history of the school to win 9 games, I think that is an awful lot to play for. Also, I doubt many of the guys are counting on Nebraska to win that game. While I am sure they are hoping the Huskers pull the upset, nobody is making plans for Houston yet.


Everyone knows by now that Kansas has a very good defense.  What do the Cyclones need to do offensively to put points on the board against this stout defense?


First of all, they will need to establish the run. Hopefully Stevie comes out healthy and plays well. I think it is important to run the ball in late November, simply because you have no idea what the weather will be like.


If the Cyclones can establish the run, that should open up the passing game. Like I have said all year, ISU has the receivers to make plays and cause the defense problems. If the Cyclones can establish a two dimensional offense, they should be able to move the football.


On the other hand, Kansas's offense has struggled this year.  What does the Cyclone defense need to do in order to shut their offense down?


They need to stay aggressive like they have been all year. The Cyclones are at their best when they are putting pressure on the offense and forcing turnovers. Coach Skladany and his defense has been the main reason for the Cyclones success the last two years. If you look back at all of the big wins in the last two years, the defense has made a lot of huge plays.


Coach Skladany is very familiar with the offense that KU runs. Coach Quartaro, who is a former receiver coach at ISU is now the coordinator at KU. A lot of the stuff that KU has run over the last three years is the same offense that Coach Loney used for ISU in the early 2000's. Coach Skaldany has seen this offense and prepared against it in practice for years. This should give the Cyclones a little bit of an advantage going into the game.


Bret Meyer has been phenomenal in taking care of the ball recently.  What changes have you seen from Meyer over the last few games and what improvements have you see from him since last year?


I don't think he has done much different; he is just progressing and maturing as a player. Brett is extremely well coached as Coach Fitch has done an outstanding job of turning Brett into a big time player. It is very difficult to play QB at the college level, let alone as a freshman and sophomore. Brett is continuing to get better and has two great years ahead of him.


The Cyclones offense was very potent when Seneca was at ISU, how do you think our current offense ranks historically compared to some of the other great offenses of the past?


I have not looked at the numbers to compare stats, but this offense is extremely good. I think Seneca brought something to ISU that the program had never seen and might never see again. He was a special player and was a huge part of the offense.


I think this offense is very good, but the scary thing for the rest of the Big 12 is that most of the crucial players are back next year. The passing game is in good shape with the top four WR's coming back including one of ISU's all-time best WR's in Blythe. With him and Meyer coming back for two more years and with Stevie coming back for another year, it seems like the pieces are in place for next year.


I think the o-line has got to keep building depth and develop guys in the program. We have not had a whole lot of depth in the o-line in the last 4 years. Coach Cotton has done a great job in his two years of putting together a good line. If he can develop guys in the program and continue to build a good o-line, this could become one of the best offenses in ISU history. They certainly have the pieces in place to be a great offense in 2006. 


Finally, what are your keys to victory for the Cyclones on Saturday night?


Control the LOS. As I mentioned above, ISU must control the line of scrimmage and establish the run. If we can get the running game going, I don't know if they can stop the pass. If they can make us one-dimensional and we cannot run the ball, it will be a lot harder to pass the ball.


Force turnovers. ISU is at its best when they are being the aggressor on defense and forcing turnovers. We have won several huge games in the last two years by creating turnovers and scoring on defense. We have seen it over and over again (Baylor '04, Kansas '04, K-State '04, Iowa '05, Colorado '05, etc.). If we can do the same in this game, it should lead ISU to a victory.


Stay focused on this game. As we talked about above, ISU has to remain focused on the task at hand. It doesn't matter if Colorado wins or not, we still have a huge game ahead of us and there is still a lot at stake. Like I said, Coach Mac is very good at keeping his players focused and showing them what is on the line. I expect that will happen this week and the players will be ready to play.


Overall, this should be an exciting game. KU has a ticket special similar to what we did against CU, so there should be a great crowd. I expect to see a lot of Cyclones down here in Lawrence as well. If everybody up in Iowa is looking for something to do this weekend, it is an easy trip down here to cheer on the Cyclones. I am already down in Kansas and looking forward to a great game. Hope to see everybody down here.

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