Football Insider: Tennessee Tech

Cyclone Nation's football insider Ben Bruns expects the Iowa State football team to show up Saturday night against Tennessee Tech and take care of business.

Ben Bruns was a standout center at Iowa State and a key member of the 2000 senior class that led the Cyclones to a 9-3 record and top 25 consideration in both the Coach's and AP polls. Bruns finished fifth in the voting for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the top center in college football, and in high school was named the Class 1-A Player of the Year by the Des Moines Register. The native of Denver, Iowa now provides analysis for the Cyclone Radio Network and Cyclone Nation during the football season.

CN: How would you best describe the 45-3 win over Kansas? Despite the large margin of victory the word "workmanlike" has been tossed around more than "impressive."

BRUNS: I think that it was workmanlike. The defense did an outstanding job all day and they were dominant. I think the offense struggled at times to find rhythm and a sense of purpose. I really felt like the game should've been 70-0 so I wasn't overly impressed either.

CN: ISU was 28th in the latest AP Poll. Do they belong in the top 25?

BRUNS: Not in my opinion. I think if they take care of business this week and next then I think they belong. I think that it speaks very well of Iowa State and the progress that Coach McCarney has made that people are giving us credit by voting for us right now. Do I feel we are one of the 25 best teams? Sure. But from where we sit record-wise we still have to win games and upset some people. If we win that game against Florida State we're in the top 15, and that's the kind of talent we have.

CN: What do you think of Hiawatha Rutland's high-top fade? Does it make you want to bust out the Kid-N-Play or some Bobby Brown?

BRUNS (laughing): Hiawatha is his own person. He's always been a dynamic personality. You just take him for what he is—a hard working guy who likes to have fun. I'd like to block for him.

CN: Seriously, Rutland has looked good so far this season.

BRUNS: Really good. Then you see Michael Wagner struggle at first and then do some good things. Then Brian Thompson comes in and tears it up. When he gets the pass protection thing down he's going to be outstanding.

CN: Last season we kept hearing from "insiders" that Brian Thompson was tearing it up on the scout team. If he's the third running back that's scary.

BRUNS: And wait until you see Stevie Hicks, who's a freak and he's not even going to touch the field this season. They have unbelievable talent there. When I first saw Thompson run last year I thought he had great burst and was a great talent. That whole group is great. One of the things that hit me was a stat that Eric Heft mentioned in our broadcast on Saturday: since 1997 Iowa State tailbacks have carried the ball over 2,000 times and they've only lost four fumbles. That's amazing.

CN: Coach McCarney seems to be more pleased with the play of the offensive line as a whole as opposed to any individual players. Does that mean there's still a lot of progress to be made?

BRUNS: I think there is. In looking at that unit they're still one guy away from being an outstanding offensive line. But I've been impressed with the way some of the newcomers have played. However, they'll still struggling with Luke Vander Sanden's injury. Hopefully this week we'll be able to roll some other guys through there and see if some other guys can contribute.

CN: With the inexperience on the offensive line, are you surprised the Cyclones are averaging over 200 yards rushing and passing on offense through two games?

BRUNS: Yes and no. A lot of the yards Hiawatha got against Florida State were him getting hit two yards past the line of scrimmage and then clawing his way for another eight. I was not really surprised we were able to run the ball very well against Kansas. But the test gets harder as you go against Kansas State, Nebraska, and Colorado. Those are teams that focus on taking the run game away. That's when we'll see just how good that unit is as a whole.

CN: The only thing I questioned from last week was leaving Seneca Wallace in the game when it was 31-3 in the fourth quarter, especially considering the daunting schedule that still lies ahead. What do you make of that?

BRUNS: I think they left Seneca in the game because he struggled some early and didn't find a rhythm. There were a lot of games last year when we were up and he played the whole way. If you look at the NFL, those guys play the whole way no matter what the score is. With a couple of quarterbacks redshirting this year who may be stepping into that starting spot next year it's the same thing here. I don't think the Heisman was a consideration either. Mac's priority list is: 1) Seneca playing well; 2) Seneca staying healthy; 3) any kind of publicity.

CN: Defensively, John Skladany's crew has been awesome going back to the Kansas game last season, except for the first half against Florida State. How long can they keep this up?

BRUNS: I think they're for real and top to bottom very fast. They have playmakers all over the place. Even if a guy or two gets hurt I think they're ok. They're going to make it hard for offenses all year.

CN: Last week you were concerned about the defense mounting a consistent pass rush. Did you see anything against Kansas that changed your mind?

BRUNS: I'll tell you what they did nice job pressuring all over the place out of their base defense. Maybe I gave them less credit than they deserved last week because quite frankly the Florida State offensive line is one of the best. Kansas' offensive isn't horrible and they have some players who could possibly play for us. But at the same time I was real happy with the way those guys put pressure on the quarterback. It was two or three guys after them the entire time and that's a good omen for the future.

CN: What can be done about the place-kicking, which has been a problem for several years now?

BRUNS: At this point you have to go with the guys you've got. Adam Benike has been consistent with the exception of one field goal. You have to understand that it's not an easy job and it does nobody no good to complain and moan about how they're doing out there. Those guys care about Iowa State football and they're doing everything they can. And it doesn't help Tony Yelk when the fans boo him. It doesn't help anybody when your own fans boo you, just ask the Hawkeyes.

CN: As a player, do you get frustrated when you come up empty on a good drive because of a missed kick?

BRUNS: It's definitely one of the worst feelings in the world. But as an offensive player you also have to ask yourself why did your drive stop? In 2000 against Iowa we had a drive stall because I had a low shotgun snap to Sage Rosenfels and he had a hard-time handling it. So it's just not the kickers. Offensive players have to hold themselves accountable about why they didn't get in the end zone. Seven points is a whole lot better than three.

CN: How do the coaches avoid this team looking ahead to next week's in-state battle with Iowa? Considering this week's opponent is Division I-AA Tennessee Tech, which is coming off a throttling at Bowling Green, does it really matter if they do look ahead?

BRUNS: Quite honestly, I think workmanlike is going to be the theme again. They have to go out and take care of business. It helps that it's at night because you get pent-up energy sitting in the hotel all day and want to go out there and play and hit somebody. Still, you definitely have to be focused, sharp, and take care of business.

CN: Finally, give us your prescription for an Iowa State victory over Tennessee Tech on Saturday night.

BRUNS: I think Tennessee Tech has some athletes so you have to stop them from getting big plays. Then you just punish them by running the ball and making plays on third down.


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