Football Insider: Troy State

All season long former Iowa State standout Ben Bruns is our football insider here at Cyclone Nation. This week, Bruns says the Iowa win was big for the program. However, he also believes the 21st-ranked Cyclones must move on and focus on the rest of the season.

Ben Bruns was a standout center at Iowa State and a key member of the 2000 senior class that led Iowa State to a 9-3 record and top 25 ranking in both the Coach's and AP polls. Bruns finished 5th 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: What are your overall impressions of the Iowa game? Were you surprised by anything?

BRUNS: I was surprised at the way we played in the first half. When I saw us come out of the locker room and I looked at them I thought they were genuinely jacked up. Our guys seemed to be manufacturing some emotion. But they fought back in the second half and showed what they've got. I'm sure those guys not having success against us recently started entering into their minds in the second half.

CN: The two times Iowa State has played a team with a big-time offensive line -- Florida State and Iowa -- they have been manhandled on defense and allowed over 200 yards rushing. Are you concerned about that given what lies ahead in the Big 12?

BRUNS: Yes I am. We went into Florida State with a pass-type scheme and then had to adjust. Quite frankly, against Iowa we were getting pushed all over the place. It was just brutal. But we did a much better job in the second half. I think you still see a young guy like a Tim TeBrink struggle to take on a double-team. Nick Leaders is a tremendous freshman, but he also has a problem when two linemen are double-teaming him. But both of those guys fought back in the second half and made plays. As the year goes on, they'll do a better job of shedding blocks and stuffing the run against quality opponents.

CN: Speaking of Iowa's offensive line, you seemed to hint last week that you didn't think they were quite as good as people like me were making them out to be. You still believe that based on what they did against Iowa State?

BRUNS: In the first half of that game they were pretty sweet. But later, I saw some of the same things I saw on film against Miami of Ohio. They weren't getting on linebackers and getting the kind of movement from the late second quarter on like they were at the beginning. I don't know exactly why that is. Obviously, we stepped up our level but they struggled covering us up in the second half, no matter who their running back was. Still, they are talented.

CN: How much satisfaction did you take from seeing all those Hawkeye fans head for the exits at Kinnick Stadium with still four minutes left in the game?

BRUNS: It was nice because of the atmosphere in the first half. They were on top of the world and it couldn't get any better for them. As a panned around at the end of the game, they were speechless. Yet, had that been reversed, we would've felt the same way. It was nice to see the things that we started five years ago continued on.

CN: Any idea what Dan McCarney said at halftime to inspire the troops?

BRUNS: I would guess that it was something along the lines of we had worked too hard, come too far, and done too much to go out and have a showing like that. Quite frankly, I'm sure he let them know that the guys who had played before them were watching the game. Jordan Carstens had an interesting comment about the impact of going back to Ames and seeing the guys who had gotten the program turned around. I know he just challenged their manhood. The great thing is that they all responded.

CN: When you were a player, did you play with anyone who could run smack like Hiawatha Rutland? What did you think of his post-game comment regarding Iowa's Fred Barr when he said, "I call him XFL because He Hate Me."

BRUNS: I'm not sure that we had anybody that would just come right out like that and have at it. Hiawatha is a character. When I read that I just kind of laughed, because we were all thinking it. I appreciate that he doesn't hold anything back and says what everyone else is thinking.

CN: Is Seneca Wallace a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate now?

BRUNS: Yes. I don't think there's really any question that he is. In terms of what one player does for his team I think he does more than anyone else in the nation. That's what the Heisman is. But, we're also going to have to win some big games.

CN: I assume you now think Iowa State has earned its first regular season ranking in 229 weeks?

BRUNS: Definitely. I thought if we wouldn't have been ranked it would've been wrong. If we can run the ball more effectively in the coming weeks I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be ranked higher than we are. Who knows? The sky is the limit. But we have to be able to run the ball. Thank goodness for Seneca Wallace and the receivers.

CN: What does the fifth straight win over Iowa mean for the program?

BRUNS: I think it's huge and important for in-state recruiting. But I've moved on from the game and I know the team has. Quite honestly, this game was something that had to be taken care of. Now that it's over, it's really not that important in the whole scheme of things. Right now, the most important game is Troy State and that's no joke. We win this game and we could be in the top 20.

CN: On to this week. There's been two distinct changes in the depth chart. JaMaine Billups will start at safety this week and Lance Young will start at wide receiver. What do you make of that?

BRUNS: I've noticed that JaMaine has played a lot of football. Anthony Forrest is an excellent football player so that speaks well for how JaMaine is doing. Lance Young has done nothing but perform since he's been here. I don't know for sure, but I thought Jamaul Montgomery had four drops last week. You've got to hold onto the ball. Lance deserves to start, and that doesn't say anything about Jamaul.

CN: You were dead-on last week when you said you thought Luke Vander Sanden would return quicker than anyone imagined. But shouldn't the coaches hold him out until next week against Nebraska rather than risk a re-injury against Troy State?

BRUNS: Nope. If I'm Luke and the coaches I want to play this weekend. I don't think you can go into a Nebraska with a question mark about whether you're a 100 percent. You've got too important of a quarterback out there to protect. It's important for Luke to have that confidence. Besides, a blitzing safety against Troy State isn't the same as one from Nebraska. That guy will try to hurt you.

CN: How does a healthy Vander Sanden bolster the offensive line?

BRUNS: If he's playing as well as he did during the two-a-days it gives you the ability to run the ball more effectively. It helps your center and left tackle on the double-team to get more movement. But it doesn't help the whole line improve. Some of those guys need to play better. I think the veterans need to become dominant.

CN: Everyone is talking about this being one of those "sandwich games" since the team is coming off an emotional win and looking ahead to Nebraska. Are you worried about a letdown?

BRUNS: I was until I heard about how good Troy State was and saw our overall performance against Iowa. No player should be satisfied with their overall performance in that game, especially the offensive and defensive lines. I don't foresee a letdown being an issue. Mac has been through this enough times that he'll have this team ready to play.

CN: What, if anything, worries the ISU coaches about Troy State?

BRUNS: They're an option team with a quarterback as their leading rusher. They had four guys with over a 1


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