Monday Musings

This week, CN's editor-in-chief says forget about that daunting road schedule to close the season. Instead, the entire Cyclone Nation, from fans to the coaches and players, should use the bye week to celebrate one of the great days in Iowa States' football history and the exorcising of the Big Red menace.

The best timing for a bye week in Iowa State football history is upon us.

It allows everyone, from the fans to the players and coaches, time to catch their collective breaths and enjoy this watershed moment for Cyclone football before re-focusing on the grueling second half of the season.

But hey, there's plenty of time next week to start talking about the Big 12 North race and daunting trips to Manhattan, Norman, Boulder, and Austin. Today, I'm throwing my normal cautionary nature to the wind so that I can bask in the dawn of a new era of ISU football with all of you.

That means I'm going to use this space this week to give you a John Fenisten-esque "insiders" view of a moment so many of you have waited over a generation for.

It started at the team hotel on Saturday morning. I caught a few minutes of ESPN's College Gameday program with some of the players and assistant coaches enjoying the show, along with some breakfast, in the lobby. The lead national story on the program was the Iowa State-Nebraska game, and they immediately cut to reporter Shelly Smith in Ames with hundreds of Cyclone fans who had been stationed at Jack Trice Stadium since 4 a.m.

Their reaction to the musings on the program was fairly businesslike, until quirky analyst Lee Corso commented on Nebraska's recruiting in the so-called "speed states" of California, Florida, and Texas. Corso pointed out the Huskers only had nine players from that prime recruiting territory, while the Cyclones had 20. That drew a raised eyebrow or two from the room.

Perhaps the Cyclones were ho-hum to the ESPN love because of the lack of it they received the previous evening from the station's newest addition, native Iowan and former Husker Trev Alberts.

Alberts told a nationwide audience on Friday night that "Iowa State's scholarship players would be walk-ons at Nebraska" and that freshman Nick Leaders, who is from Omaha, ended up in Ames because "he wasn't good enough to get a scholarship offer" from the Big Red.

Although I didn't see this for myself, I was informed by a pretty good source that Alberts' beyond-ignorant comments incensed the Cyclones. Including one particularly fiery assistant coach, who made darned sure as many of the players as he could find heard and saw Alberts' statements.

If Alberts had exhibited some of that in-studio testosterone while he was with the Indianapolis Colts he'd still be in the NFL. But I digress.

As I was leaving for the stadium I catch assistant coach, and former Husker quarterback, Mike Grant in the parking lot.

"Are you ready," I asked.

"We have to be," he replies with a grim determination, "it's game-day."

I arrived at the stadium a full three hours before kickoff so that I could watch as much as possible of the Iowa-Penn State game in the press box. I see Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register in the media parking lot. He's excited about Iowa's fast start in Happy Valley, as am I. We both realize this could be a special day in our state's college football history.

Upstairs the press box is already packed. The ABC crew is dining on a fine Italian lunch while Brent Musberger is carousing with members of the local media. Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star arrives, as does Andrew Bagnato, the lead college football writer for the Chicago Tribune. Then I notice Sports Illustrated's Ivan Maisel is watching the Hawkeyes over my shoulder on the monitor.

This is obviously a big game.

Iowa's second half miscues and near-meltdown has me so frustrated I go down to the field early to avoid watching the end. A few moments later, Iowa State's captains walk hand-in-hand into the stadium for the pregame coin-flip. I notice they bear the same look of steely determination I saw earlier at the team hotel and on Coach Grant's face.

On the sidelines one thing is apparent: the Nebraska kids are big. In fact, they are really big. To the naked eye it's easy to see why they've rushed for 695 yards against Iowa State the past two years.

The Cyclones get an early turnover, but can't get into the end zone and must settle for a field goal. Then the rain starts coming down hard. I remember thinking at the time the rain was bad news for the Cyclones. Shows what I know.

I spend the next half of the game watching from the press box. It's a physical mismatch on the field, except this time it's the team in cardinal-and-gold delivering the butt-whupping. Leaders, who you might remember was called out by ESPN's Alberts as a local boy not good enough to earn a scholarship offer from Nebraska, is a man possessed.

I am particularly amused at defensive coordinator John Skladany's lack of respect for Nebraska's passing game. Even on third-and-20 the Cyclones refuse to insert a nickle defense.

I go back down to the sidelines for the fourth quarter. Nebraska's players are shaking their heads in disbelief with each big-play by the Cyclones and turnover by their offense. They truly can't believe this is happening to them in Ames, of all places. There's also confusion, and I notice their coaches struggling to get the attention of some of their players. This is truly a team in disarray.

Over on the Iowa State sideline there is measured enthusiasm. They're excited, but also eager for the clock to reach all zeroes so they can move onto to the next challenge. It's the same resolve I noticed way back on Media Day.

Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde is getting ready for the post-game rush of the field and sarcastically warning me to be careful. As the final moments click down I am surrounded by a garrison of overly inebriated students eager to take another futile shot at tearing down the Jack Trice Stadium goalposts. Even the police are having trouble clearing a path.

Then, the mad rush takes place. Several people are being trampled. It's awesome. Myself, being so pleasantly plump, am in no danger of that, of course. I attempt to get over to Dan McCarney to congratulate him on the big win to no avail. He's too busy shaking hands with hundreds of people he's never seen before who have stormed the field.

To no one's surprise, the last Cyclone off the field is the not exactly shy Hiawatha Rutland, who is enjoying the attention and celebration.

From the viewpoint inside the Jacobson Building, the sea of humanity on the field is stunning. Not one blade of grass can be seen. Mac has so many well-wishers to chat with that he is atypically late for the post-game press conference. Lane Danielsen serves as a capable fill-in.

One of the students at the university newspaper helps kill time by telling us a story about partying with ESPN's Shelly Smith the night before. Apparently, she took some of them out to dinner, and then had to suffer through a night of drunken young men hitting on her at a student party later.

During Mac's post-game press conference I ask him about Alberts' comments, but he is too classy to take the bait. Instead, I am amazed that he never said the word tremendous once.

Outside I speak to several players and coaches who are busy signing autographs. I speak to several folks who are excited about the prospect of Iowa and Iowa State both being ranked. It truly has been a perfect day…almost.

Just as I was leaving the parking lot, one well-meaning fan came up to congratulate me on Michigan's big win. Unfortunately, I had been dodging any updates on the game and taping it at home so that I could watch it over dinner.

Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.

Weekly Top 25

If I had a vote in the AP poll this would've been my ballot this week:

1. Miami, Fla. (4-0)

Last week: 1

This week: Connecticut

2. Texas (4-0)

Last week: 2

This week: Oklahoma State

3. Georgia (4-0)

Last week: 3

This week: at Alabama

4. Oklahoma (4-0)

Last week: 4

This week: at Missouri

5. Virginia Tech (5-0)

Last week: 5

This week: idle

6. Ohio State (5-0)

Last week: 6

This week: at Northwestern

7. Notre Dame (4-0)

Last week: 9

This week: Stanford

8. Florida (4-1)

Last week: 8

This week: at Mississippi

9. Oregon (4-0)

Last week: 11

This week: at Arizona

10. Kansas State (4-0)

Last week: 13

This week: at Colorado

11. Tennessee (3-1)

Last week: 12

This week: Arkansas

12. USC (3-1)

Last week: 14

This week: at Washington State

13. Michigan (4-1)

Last week: 15

This week: idle

14. Florida State (4-1)

Last week: 7

This week: Clemson

15. Iowa State (5-1)

Last week: 20

This week: idle

16. Washington State (4 -1)

Last week: 16

This week: USC

17. N.C. State (6-0)

Last week: 17

This week: idle

18. Washington (3-1)

Last week: 19

This week: California

19. Wisconsin (5-0)

Last week: 21

This week: Penn State

20. Colorado State (4-1)

Last week: 18

This week: at Fresno State

21. Texas A&M (3-1)

Last week: 23

This week: Texas Tech

22. Iowa (4-1)

Last week: NR

This week: Purdue

23. Penn State (3-1)

Last week: 10

This week: at Wisconsin

24. Auburn (4-1)

Last week: 25

This week: idle

25. Alabama (4-1)

Last week: NR

This week: Georgia

Dropped out: #24 Oregon State

Honorable Mention: #26 LSU (3-1); #27 Air Force (4-0); #28 UCLA (3-1); #29 Arizona State (4-1); #30 Georgia Tech (4-1).

Right this minute, gun to-my-head predictions

This is a new feature we'll be starting this week that projects the Big Ten, Big 12, and BCS matchups as well as the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy as today.

Heisman Finalists: 1. Seneca Wallace-Iowa State, 2. Ken Dorsey-Miami (Fla.), 3. Rex Grossman-Florida, 4. Charles Rogers-Michigan State.

Tangerine Bowl

Texas Tech vs. Virginia

Motor City Bowl

Purdue vs. Marshall

Houston Bowl

Nebraska vs. TCU

Holiday Bowl

Iowa State vs. Southern California

Independence Bowl

Colorado vs. South Carolina

Alamo Bowl

Wisconsin vs. Texas A&M

Music City Bowl

Michigan State vs. Arkansas

Sun Bowl

Penn State vs. Oregon

Humanitarian Bowl

Boise State vs. Missouri

Outback Bowl

Michigan vs. Auburn

Cotton Bowl

Kansas State vs. Tennessee

Citrus Bowl

Iowa vs. Florida

Rose Bowl

Ohio State vs. Washington State

Sugar Bowl

Virginia Tech vs. Georgia

Orange Bowl

Oklahoma vs. Florida State

Fiesta Bowl

Texas vs. Miami, Fla.

(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines)

AllCyclones Top Stories