Straight Shots: "One Last Final Last"

Saturday was a special day for a lot of people who are involved in the world of Cyclone athletics. There were the obvious, and the not so obvious. Find out what CN's publisher had to say about an emotional day in Jack Trice Stadium in this special column.

One Special Day


Saturday was a special day for a lot of people who are involved in the world of Cyclone athletics. It marked Dan McCarney's final game as the head coach of Iowa State. Saturday also marked the final time that 23 seniors would put on the cardinal and gold.


Saturday's game marked a special day for me as well. Now, I'll be the first one to admit that I probably have the coolest job in the world for a college student. I get to do what I love. I love Cyclone athletics. I love everything about them and everything about this university. The Iowa State game against Missouri marked the final football game I will watch as a student.


Since that was the case, I wanted to take a day off from being a journalist. I wanted to be a fan for the first, and last time this season. I wanted to cheer on the man who made me love Iowa State football; Dan McCarney. I wanted to cheer on one of the best friends I've ever had, Scott Stephenson, in his final game as a Cyclone. One voice doesn't mean much in a crowd of 35,000, but I wanted to do my part and have the experience of being a student just one last time. It just happened to be Mac's last game at the same time.


Pre-Game – What a Shame


The day started out as good as it could have for an 0-7 conference team. I tailgated with friends, family and even stopped by CyLentBob's big setup. It was great, but somber to say the least.


You see, like I mentioned before, there couldn't have been more than 35,000 fans in the stadium watching Dan McCarney's last stand. Here's a guy who built this program with his own bare hands, and we (Cyclone fans) couldn't even gather 40,000 people to send him out.


Can you blame the fans? Not really. In reality, the crowd turnout against Missouri made Jamie Pollard's tough decision just a little bit easier.


So the team ran onto the field and the seniors were honored for the last time. It was just like any other senior day that we see all around the nation each year. This one was more special to me though. A lot of those guys who were called for the last time are good friends of mine. I, unlike a lot of people, know just how much they care about this football team. They didn't want to go 4-8 in 2006. They didn't want to win only one conference game. They didn't want to, but they did and that's what makes Dan McCarney's departure so hard on so many people.


Imagine if you were a kid on this year's squad. Would you not feel a little bit responsible for McCarney's situation right now? They shouldn't, but they do. Trust me on that. Here's a guy who these players love like a father, and they somewhat feel like they've let him down as players.


That's why I wanted to be a fan for the Missouri game. To support these guys who had no gas left in their tanks. They've given this university and their coach everything they've had for four and sometimes five straight years.


The seniors had been introduced and we were all waiting for the inevitable. We were all waiting for McCarney's farewell message to the fans. To me, it was one of those occasions that I knew was coming, but I wouldn't believe it until I saw it. After watching his exiting press conference, speculating about the next coach and even talking to Mac about it, it was still hard to believe that when I came to Trice next season, Dan McCarney wouldn't be there.


It finally happened. McCarney appeared on the big screen at Trice thanking the fans for the past 12 seasons. At that point something came over me that I hadn't felt throughout this entire process. I got very emotional. Tears came to my eyes. I saw an Iowa State football legend saying goodbye to what he built.


This situation was so emotional for me for two reasons: The first being how many people actually showed up to see it. That made me sad as a fan. The second was, in a weird way I felt guilty for this situation. That made me sad as a journalist. Why? Obviously I didn't have anything to do with Mac leaving Iowa State. But I think it's the best thing for everybody involved in this situation, and for some reason I feel bad about that.


Doesn't Mac deserve more than what he received? Doesn't the man that made Iowa State football fun again deserve more than a 40 second video message to the fans, which was cut off halfway though because of another play in the game?


As a fan, I felt cheated. Not at the way Iowa State handled it, but I wanted an opportunity for those loyal Cyclones who were actually at the game to really stand up and let McCarney know how much he will be missed here in Ames. Little did I know, I would get my opportunity a few hours later.


Mac's Last Stand


The game started and at first it looked like every other game that Iowa State has played this year. Missouri scored quickly with no challenge whatsoever from the depleted Iowa State defense.


With all of the emotion in the air, it looked like it would be just another day in this year's Cyclone football season. Little did I know then that it wouldn't turn out that way. The Iowa State offensive line dominated. Ryan Kock was a man amongst boys and the Cyclone defense flew to the ball in a way that they hadn't done all season long. For the first time in 2006, Iowa State looked like a good football team.


Mac's final game couldn't have ended with a better scenario. Missouri has been a thorn in McCarney's side for the last two years. This is a team which arguably kept McCarney and Iowa State out of the Big 12 championship game single handedly two season's in a row. Two games that, if won, could have possibly saved Mac's job.


The 21-16 win was the perfect way for McCarney to go out. It was a typical McCarney win. The Cyclones could have put the game out of reach and saved everyone some heartache. Instead, they had to bring it down to the wire. They had to put the game on the defense's shoulders to make a big stop at the end of the game. Over the past few years, when that very scenario has happened, it hasn't turned out well for McCarney.


But that Saturday was different than the close games the past few years. On that Saturday, Dan McCarney went out a winner.


If you would have told me in July that we would end the season 1-7 in the conference and charging the field against Missouri in Mac's final game, I would have laughed in your face.


Watching the students carry McCarney off the field was bittersweet to say the least. It was bitter because Dan McCarney made everybody, including myself, feel like they were the most important person in the world for 12 straight years. It was hard saying goodbye.


But it was also sweet, in the sense that Mac left the same way in which he came to Iowa State, a winner.


For the Better


At the end of his tenure here at Iowa State, the fan base was very vocal about getting him out. They were vocal and they were negative. It's best that Mac moves on now because things wouldn't have gotten any better for him next season. No matter what he does, people are always going to complain because that's the nature of the game in 2006.


When I think of Dan McCarney, the word positive comes to my mind. The fans were getting negative and the positive McCarney didn't deserve that anymore.


Mac will go somewhere different and Mac will be loved.


I am glad that I took the day off to be a fan for McCarney's last game, as the sight of watching the students carry McCarney off the field will be a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.


Iowa State plays their games in Jack Trice Stadium, but it will always be the house that Dan McCarney built.

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