In preparing his team for game-week preparation, the only example Cyclone coach Dan McCarney needed was last weekend's Villanova victory over Rutgers. Pollsters had picked the Scarlet Knights as three-touchdown favorites over the I-AA Wildcats, only to see upstart ‘Nova win by a margin similar to that.
"He doesn't want us to overlook this team," said cornerback Atif Austin. "There was a I-AA team that beat a D-I team last week and he brought that to our attention. We don't want that to happen here at Iowa State. You can't stumble anytime with the kind of schedule we have. The games you're supposed to win, you're definitely supposed to dominate those games."
Given how far the program has come under McCarney in the past few years, no way is he going to let the players in his program forget past examples of ISU losses to I-AA programs.
"We can't afford to do that here," he said. "Rutgers was favored by three or four touchdowns and got spanked bad by Villanova, a I-AA team. Before I got here, we all know that a I-AA team beat Iowa State. I'm just not going to let it happen. Every one of these games is so important to our season and the mission we're on here. I'll make sure we're not taking anything for granted. We'll talk about it each day. That's my job as a head coach."
McCarney threw out a number of superlatives during Tuesday's press conference when discussing his team's upcoming foe. The Golden Eagles are led by sophomore quarterback Robert Craft (256 yards passing in season-opener) and defensive end D.J. Bleisath, a I-AA Buck Buchanan Award nominee.
Given Tennessee Tech's weapons, the ISU coach is willing to bet his players will face a determined team anxious to erase all memories of a 41-7 season-opening loss to Bowling Green.
"Mike Hennigan is coming back and bringing a very solid Tennessee Tech team in here," McCarney said. "They've been in the Top 25 of I-AA the last two years. They were picked preseason this year. They got off to a real bad start at Bowling Green and had two punts blocked and fumbled the ball twice. As you barely sat down to watch the tape, it's 28-0. They got in a huge whole and we can sure identify from that in our first game."
The Golden Eagles' passing attack and variety of playmakers on defense are what the coaching staff is focusing on.
"(Their ability to) throw the football has caught our attention," McCarney said. "They'll run a lot of screens and have thrown double passes and are going to throw the ball all over the place. Defensively, they've got some good athletes. They've got good players, are well-coached and sound. We just have to do everything we can to jump on them like we did Kansas, get them down and keep them down and don't let them back in. That's part of the plan for this week."
Going on the offensive
It's hard to ignore the way ISU's offensive line has played in the first two games, especially given the way it has been put together. While Zach Butler and Bob Montgomery were recruited as offensive linemen and have been there since arriving in Ames, their cohorts have played both sides of the ball.
Casey Shelton, Dewayne Johnson and Cale Stubbe all began their careers lining up against Butler and Montgomery in practices, but now find themselves in the starting lineup alongside the two. Injured Luke Vander Sanden was also given a shot on defense before switching spots.
McCarney delved into the past in explaining how the original decisions came about to move those four to offense.
"First of all we missed on some kids that we signed," he said. "That caused part of it. It's not unusual when you recruit kids that play a lot of defense in high school and you move them to offense. But you've got to make sure they still have that temperament, attitude, toughness and growth potential that go into those positions."
On Shelton: "Casey Shelton, when we recruited him, was a guy that we knew could play offensive line. But I wanted to see if he could play defense first. He was going to be O.K. on defense, but I felt like he was a kid that could challenge for honors someday on offense. I still believe that now. He'll be a really good player these next two years."
On Johnson: "Dewayne Johnson could not play defense. That was not his position. We should have moved him earlier and that was my fault. He was a scout team offensive linemen for us last year. He was a definite bust on defense, but is not a bust on offense. But he's got to improve a lot each week of this season."
On Stubbe: "He is the same way. There was another one that was O.K. He was our goal-line specialist early in the season last year, but that's the only playing time he was going to get over there."
On Vander Sanden: "I felt the same way about Luke Vander Sanden—he was a Division I Big 12 offensive linemen. We wanted to give him a shot on defense first. He was not going to be very good on defense. The move was going to be natural. So he has moved over. Despite the injury, he's got a chance to come back and be a real good player for us."
Opening a new era at Jack Trice
This weekend's 6 p.m. kickoff against the Golden Eagles will be the first time ISU lines up to play an opponent under permanent lights at home.
Being that the game will not be televised and fans' anxiety to take in the changes, McCarney expects a good crowd come Saturday.
"The players are excited about it and it should be a great atmosphere," he said. "We've heard from a lot of people that got a chance to watch us play the last couple weeks. I think they know that we've got a good program. It's not just a good team this year, it's a good program. We'll get a good crowd, I don't think there's any doubt about it. Our kids are excited about it. We're playing three night games the next three weeks and will stick with the schedule we've had. I think we're 9-4 in the last 13 night games."
Press Conference tidbits
On the injury front, fullback/linebacker Joe Woodley's status for Saturday's game is questionable after he sustained a concussion against Kansas. McCarney said that a decision on Woodley's condition will be made later in the week by team doctors…The Cyclones' special teams captain this week will be Ellis Hobbs…The coaching staff gave out game balls on Monday to Hiawatha Rutland, Jeremy Loyd and Jordan Carstens…Fifteen players hit the field for the first time against Kansas and McCarney noticed no drop-off from first to second team players.