"Banks is playing outstanding football at quarterback," said Cyclone coach Dan McCarney, whose team will be gunning for an unprecedented five straight victories over the Hawkeyes on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Iowa City. "He doesn't have any turnovers or picks and is over 65 percent completion average. He's playing with great confidence and like a guy that started all last year. He's really got a great presence about him right now."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound quarterback opened the season by completing 5-of-8 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns before making way for the reserves in a 57-21 blowout victory over Akron.
He followed that up the following week by hitting on 18-of-27 passes for 256 yards. His lone scoring pass came on a 48-yard hookup with C.J. Jones.
Iowa's quarterback is also drawing comparisons to Cyclone senior Seneca Wallace.
"I think they're very similar in a lot of ways and have real strong arms," McCarney said. "Banks is much more accurate now than he was last year. He appears to be making real good decisions. He does have real live feet like Seneca does, so there are a lot of similarities. As operators, leaders, quarterbacks, the strength of the arm, quickness, athleticism, hips and feet, they are very similar. They've done a real good job of bringing Banks along."
Game's importance reiterated by Iowa players
Although 66 players on the Cyclone roster and half of all starters are from within the state's borders, the team's leaders still make it a point to explain just how important the Iowa State-Iowa game is. It's probably just as well, since this will be the first time that 14 players in the two-deep line up against the Hawkeyes.
"Iowa State-Iowa is real special to all of us," McCarney said. "It's my job and all of our's to make sure they understand the meaning of this game, the intensity and how hard you've got to play."
Saturday's game takes on even more importance to Iowa City residents Zach Butler, a starting center, and Nick Linder, a reserve strong safety.
The two have never been short on words during game week.
"This week me and Butler kind of pick up the intensity, then everybody else kind of thrives off our intensity throughout practices and meetings," said Linder, who has three tackles and one interception this fall. "I'm not going to lie, it's a big game. For a guy like Butler, it's going to be his first game playing back in Iowa City. We went to most of those Iowa Hawkeye home games our whole lives. It's going to be a good experience."
Starting punt returner Todd Miller, of Mount Pleasant, seconds that notion.
"It has a lot of meaning to a lot of the Iowa kids on both sides," he said. "But Butler and Linder are definite leaders and are fiery guys. They bring a lot of emotion. Being on the sidelines, you can tell there is a lot of emotion in this game." After all of the words are spoken, it's the job of those out-of-staters to follow the lead. Wallace, a native of Sacramento, Calif., knew just how important it was last season and his performance in Ames was a magnificent one as he completed 20-of-27 passes for 228 yards and one score.
"Not growing up in Iowa and then coming here and playing in that game, I know what it means to a lot of players on this team," he said. "All of us have to get on this thing. It's a whole team thing and we're here to support everybody. We just go out there and play with each other."
Reflecting back on 1998 streak-breaker
From reading offensive lineman Marc Cortez's letter prior to each game to getting words of encouragement from Todd Bandhauer, the quarterback that led ISU to its first victory over Iowa since 1982, McCarney makes sure that his current players never forget just what it meant to beat the Hawkeyes.
"(Cortez's letter) had a lot of impact," McCarney said. "Marc was a guy that had major surgeries on just about every part of his body, but there was never anything more important to him than this program and team. That was the message. He said that God has given you a gift, that it could end at any time and take advantage of it and that he'd be with them out there on the field in spirit.
"If you knew the guy and what this team meant to him and how much he meant to the team at the time, his attitude and chemistry that he brought to this football team meant an awful lot to us and still does. We still share that with our team. It's part of the tradition of this series."
Bandhauer will be watching the game in Wisconsin, but wants to send a word of encouragement to this season's team.
"He's working up in Wisconsin and wanted to send a fax," McCarney said. "He won't be able to be here. All of the players here that knew what we went through and how hard it was to get this thing turned around and turn the series around and make it competitive again, they're all proud being a part of that. They're the biggest supporters we have."