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: Forget about Xs and Os for a second and just tell us emotionally what you were feeling as the final seconds ticked down Saturday night during Iowa State's dominant win over Nebraska.
BRUNS: It felt to me like all the work we put into this thing over the years paid off. It just continued to move the program in the right way. We just keeping taking step after step. Each team since Mac has been here has accomplished something, and that was the foundation for the next year's team. It means a lot for me, as one of the guys who got us over the hump in 2000, to see the national recognition that we deserve and have worked so hard for come our way.
CN: I know you were confident the Cyclones could win, but even Dan McCarney admitted to me on the radio Wednesday he never envisioned his team would physically whip the Huskers' butts as much as they did. Were you also surprised?
BRUNS: It's easy to say now, but quite honestly I really wasn't. I felt like we could do that. I didn't see how they were going to be able to run against us if we played the way we're capable of playing. If you take their run away they struggle. I thought Nebraska played good defense and did a nice job of stopping the pass. I was surprised at how well we were able to run the ball when that happened. Credit goes out to our tackles. I thought Casey Shelton had an outstanding game. You have to like that 200 yards rushing.
CN: I've watched maybe a dozen games from the sidelines and that Nebraska team was the biggest squad I've ever seen. Do you buy the argument that the Huskers are "down?"
BRUNS: I think everybody's caught up to them. This game represented a paradigm shift of what everyone else in college football already knew. They were able to run the ball longer than anybody else because they were so good. Teams like Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Wisconsin figured already out you have to throw the ball, and not just with play-action. Now Nebraska will have to do that with drop-backs and rollouts. There's so much talent now that you can't just line-up your 140 guys and stand there and just knock them over anymore.
CN: Iowa State definitely had the speed advantage in the game. On ESPN's Gameday program Lee Corso made the point that Nebraska had just nine players from the "speed states" of California, Texas, and Florida. Meanwhile, the Cyclones had 20. How much is that a factor?
BRUNS: It is a big factor. We've gotten tremendous athletes from those states. Another factor is that the best players in Iowa used to go to Nebraska. Now the best players in Nebraska come to Iowa State.
CN: ESPN's Trev Alberts made some silly comments last week on TV. Obviously, he's a Husker but he's also a native Iowan. He said Iowa State's scholarship players would be walk-ons at Nebraska and he singled out Nick Leaders as a local product who wasn't good enough to play for the Huskers. What's your opinion of those statements?
BRUNS: Maybe a better person to ask would be John Garrison, because Leaders absolutely destroyed him. That was a senior center for Nebraska against a freshman. On the second play of the game Garrison and a guard had a double-team against Leaders and he split them and just stuffed that play. Times have changed since Trev has been away.
CN: I heard from a good source that one of the assistant coaches, who I won't name, was so incensed at Alberts' statements that he made sure every member of the team saw them on tape the night before the game. How much does that stuff really motivate you as a player before a game that already has as much riding on it as this one did?
BRUNS: It totally does. The whole quest that we've been on since Coach McCarney arrived is for respect so that everybody in the nation recognizes us as one of the top programs. That quest continues. To be lambasted like that and berated by an ESPN analyst that went to the school you're playing against is ridiculous. It is a motivator for sure. But you watch Trev Alberts, for the rest of this season he'll be on the Iowa State bandwagon.
CN: What's really scary about the 22-point win over Nebraska is that Seneca Wallace didn't exactly play his best game. That has to give the rest of the team some confidence, right?
BRUNS: For sure it does. As I look back, it was not his best game but that's because Nebraska had a good game plan and played good defense. Credit to them. A lot is made of Seneca's ability, and he is the premier player in the nation right now for his team, but if you look at next year we'll have an excellent team as well. Go back to the spring game and Cris Love threw all over our first team defense. There's quality over the place to go along with good coaching.
CN: Speaking of coaching, a topic of conversation this week on the various message boards, and even my radio program, has been whether or not Iowa State will have difficulty coming up with the money to keep Mac here. He'll surely be a hot commodity after the season. Do you have any perspective on that?
BRUNS: I think it would take a lot for Coach Mac to leave here. This program has really been created by him. Mac has emphasized that he really wants the money for his assistant coaches and staff. His salary should be in line with the top coaches in college football, and the assistants should be as well. The good news is that Iowa State only budgeted what it knew it would get in TV revenue at the start of the season, which was just three games. The rest of the season that number will be substantial. Just one ABC game like last week is like $300,000 for each team. That's something Iowa State needs to commit to the coaches. But I think Coach Mac's loyalty runs deep here.
CN: Describe to our readers what goes on during a midseason bye-week.
BRUNS: The coaches are out and about recruiting, the coordinators and Mac are here, and you basically have fundamental practices and you condition hard. Mac told the players before the Nebraska game that if they won he'd give them Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. So come Friday, after classes are done, I doubt many Cyclones will be in town. They'll go home and see their families, which hardly get to do during the season.
CN: How much will the loss, again, of Luke Vander Sanden hurt the offensive line?
BRUNS: It definitely hurts. I just feel so bad for Luke because he'd come back so quickly and really worked hard. To have something that traumatic happe