Execution, Emotion Key to Fast Start

Iowa State players would much rather just say Saturday was an aberration, a one-time occurrence and will not happen again. They're not lining up to hear Dan McCarney's halftime speech over again and hope a similar one won't be necessary anytime soon. The Cyclones know there's only one way to avoid it—start faster and not dig themselves into such a hole at halftime.

"Hopefully the speech that he gave us we don't have to get anymore," said strong safety JaMaine Billups, who will be making his first career start this Saturday against Troy State. "If we just come out, do what we have to do and play hard, the speeches will come down a little bit and there won't be any more yelling."

McCarney had plenty to yell about in the pink locker rooms of Kinnick Stadium last Saturday, as his defense surrendered 222 rushing yards and fell behind 24-7.

Offensively, the Cyclones were not much better. Although it didn't improve much in the final 30 minutes, the ISU running game was pretty much non-existent in the opening half. Seneca Wallace would end up throwing for a career-high 361 yards, but even he threw a crucial first-half interception in the end zone that cost his team points.

"I don't agree that it was a slow start and I didn't sense any that we were flat or unemotional," said Cyclone coach Dan McCarney. "I'm not buying that. After those first three series, I thought we played real good and then they just whacked us. They physically got after us and were a much better team and played with more urgency and toughness.

"The first half it looked like a scout team. We looked like a scout team defense out there servicing them like they were holding up cards saying what they wanted you to do and to please line up right here and we'll whack your rear end. That's what it looked like to me."

Wallace who, despite his lackluster start on Saturday moved up a few spots in some experts' Heisman Trophy rankings, acknowledges ISU's first-half problems.

"It's not just me, it's the whole team," he said. "We all get off to a slow start. I don't know what it is. It's just something that we need to try to get out of that shell and get off to better starts."

While he disagreed with the ‘slow start' remark, McCarney reiterated that it will be important that his team get off on the right foot in the ensuing nine games of its schedule.

"It's important in this game of football that you always start fast," he said. "Both coaches are saying the same things to their players, but there's only one of them that starts fast. Rarely will you see both teams starting fast, since usually one is suffering. We need to do a better job of that and hopefully we can get off to a better start this week."

Much of getting off to a fast start is emotional, but it's also being technically sound.

"In the first half of the Iowa game, a few players were not where they were supposed to be and that's why the big holes opened up," Billups said. "From one half to the other, the defense started getting to the spots that it was supposed to be. We've got to come out more focused in the first half and keep the momentum going. If we can just do that, come out in the first half and know our responsibilities, then we'll be a dominant defense."

Cyclone fans just hope that the dominant defensive play begins in the opening 30 minutes, and without another fiery halftime speech.


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