Vander Sanden's Top 5 Wins in the Mac Era

This week, I focus on Coach Dan McCarney's top five wins during his tenure at Iowa State. These wins are those that have been monumental in ISU's turn-around, season, or wins that have helped to build tradition at Iowa State today. These are in no particular order, but I will say number one on the list is the top one!

1. ISU @ Iowa (September 12,1998)


The Cyclones' first game on the list was against their in-state rival, the Iowa Hawkeyes, which the Clones won, 27-9. Iowa State was a huge underdog going into the game against Iowa in 1998.  Iowa had dominated the series the previous 15 meetings, and why would anyone pick Iowa State in this one?  Not to mention the game was being played in Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. ISU's standout, Darren Davis had an eye sparkling 240 some yards on the ground with an offense that just dominated the Hawkeyes all day long. I remember watching a highlight tape of this game in my years playing for the Cyclones. The play that got the engine rolling for the Cyclones that fall day was a special one.  Kevin Wilson blocked a punt, setting up ISU's first score. Then, the next possession, Kahil Hill, Iowa's punt returner, muffed a punt with Iowa State recovering. The Cyclones held Ladell Betts to less than two yards per carry, and the defense laid five sacks on Kyle McCann. This game might have been Coach McCarney's biggest win because of two things. Number one, the win broke a winless streak of 31 games on the road. Number two, it was Iowa State's first win over in-state rival in 15 years!  No one picked the Cyclones to win this game, but Coach McCarney and his boys prevailed.   


2. Nebraska @ ISU (September 28, 2002)


Second on the list is Iowa State's victory over Nebraska at Jack Trice Stadium in 2002, which ISU won 36-14. Seneca Wallace was the leader on offense that day. I remember it being a dreary day, but it sure was great not only playing, but beating them bad. I remember seeing videos of their players in interviews talking smack during game week. Nothing like bulletin board material, and showing them they messed with the "real" big red at the wrong time. Prior to this game, Coach McCarney hadn't beaten Nebraska a single time. He was feeling it, his staff was feeling it, and his players were feeling it. That was the biggest party I have ever seen on a football field.  I am sure many of you were there to witness it, and I am sure many were there to rush the field. This game truly started a renewed Big XII North rivalry with the Cornhuskers.



3.  ISU vs Pittsburgh (December 2000)


Third on the list is ISU versus Pittsburgh, which was played in December of 2000 in Phoenix, Arizona, with ISU winning 37-29.  This game marked ISU's first bowl game in nearly two decades, playing in the Bowl. This marked a team that had Coach McCarney's first true recruits on it. I was a freshman on the team that year, and I can't say enough about the seniors on that squad. Sage Rosenfells, Reggie Hayward, Ben Beaudet, Marcel Howard, Ben Bruns, Dustin Avey, Ryan Sloth, Doug Densmore, Enis Haywood, and the list goes on and on. I have this game down because it marks ISU's first ever bowl championship game, and also Coach McCarney's first ever bowl appearance as a head coach at the D-1 level, not to mention his first bowl win too. I feel this game truly laid down the foundation for the next several years. No one thought Coach McCarney could turn a dump into a respectable program. All he did was carry his lunch box and hard hat to work everyday, and he used it as motivation!



4. ISU @ Kansas State (2004)


Number four on the list is Iowa State's win over Kansas State three seasons ago, which the Clones won 37-23. I was a senior captain and center on this squad. The first half started out great. I remember Darren Sproles had a long breakout run that put us down, and we lost momentum. If you remember from last week, I chose Kansas State as a top five place to play in the Big XII.  Anyway, the offense needed to step up big. Todd Blythe caught some crucial catches, Todd Miller caught a touchdown with a slant across the middle, and then....LaMarcus Hicks picked off an interception for and runs it in for a touchdown.  Now, with the momentum, who can forget Stevie Hicks' long touchdown run up the middle? It truly was incredible how this all happened, and how it happened so soon! I chose this game, because it marked Coach McCarney's first win over K-State, and more importantly at K-State. All of us Cyclone fans remember all the embarrassing losses to K-State over the years. Just absolutely horrid!!  Boy that was a great win and it was one of my favorites as a player on the team. I also chose this game because it allowed our team of 2004 to become bowl eligible after going 2-10 the season before. Once again, no one expected the team in 2004 to be worth a lick. All you would hear is not enough experience, freshman quarterback, too many young guys, not good enough up front....  Well, you know what?!  Proved them wrong once again!



5. ISU@ Texas A&M (2005)


Last on the list comes a game from a year ago. This game was against Texas A&M at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, also home of the "12th Man." I chose this game because it was Coach Mac's first win at Texas A&M, and more importantly, it was huge for recruiting purposes. The win over the Aggies definitely put ISU on the map for high school football in Texas. We all know that football in Texas is the number one priority, and winning that game last year helps ISU. It helps because recruits understand that ISU has a good program, they realize that ISU can play big time football.  Who can forget Todd Blythe and Bret Meyer erupting on their tosses and catches.  Bylthe had over 200 yards receiving. It truly was fun to watch. I also chose this game, because it showed that ISU can play with the more perennial Texas teams, and not just Baylor. 


In closing, I hope this week's top five has allowed you to reflect the success and tradition that has been established over the last several years.  For you long time Cyclone fans, I hope these flashbacks have brought smiles to your face, have made you even more excited for this year's kickoff versus Toledo, and has you ready to cheer your hearts out and be "DIE HARD CYCLONE FANS!" 

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