Football Insider: Oklahoma

Cyclone Nation's football insider Ben Bruns says this week's opponent #2 Oklahoma has the best defense Iowa State will face this season and says Sooner Coach Bob Stoops never gets out-coached. However, Bruns still believes ninth-ranked Iowa State has a shot as long as Seneca Wallace is sharp and the running game is consistent. Here's how Bruns sizes up this weekend's matchup and the Des Moines Register headline controversy.

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: If I was to describe Seneca Wallace's performance against Texas Tech as ‘Heisman Caliber? No. Good enough? Yes' what would you say to that?

BRUNS: I would borrow a phrase from Mac, and say that is absolutely asinine. Show me one other QB in the nation that can make that run, and play a very consistent game with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and 10 straight completions at the end. The Clones needed to run the ball, control the clock, and win--pretty simple to figure out. As far as I can recall, Heisman candidates win. Why do you think Troy Davis didn't win it after doing what no runner in the history of D1 football had done?

CN: Was the Cyclone Nation justified in its outrage over that Des Moines Register headline or was some of that blown out of proportion this week?

BRUNS: Definitely, had that been Chuck Long, the Rag would still be praising him. I'd say it was a slap in the face to the man everyone that is knowledgeable about college football calls the number one Heisman candidate. I realize it was some slappy that made the headline, who probably was not even at the game, but it is not descriptive either. Bad journalism.

CN: You played against some great All-Americans at Iowa State like Eric Crouch, Michael Bishop, Antonio Bryant, Ahman Green. Did you ever see any of those guys pull off a play like Seneca's highlight reel run on Saturday night?

BRUNS: Crouch had a couple of spectacular runs in similar circumstances, but he was never a threat to throw the ball. Secondaries must be terrified of Seneca.

CN: Iowa State is ranked in the top 10 of AP Poll for the first time ever. Your thoughts?

BRUNS: It is a fantastic place to be going into a game against #2 Oklahoma. The script couldn't be written any better, now it's time to see what the Clones can really do. I'm looking forward to this on a lot of different levels, but the fact it is on the road could make it all the more special.

CN: Prior to facing the Cyclones, the Texas Tech offense had been averaging over 40 points per game in its last three outings. How do you rate Iowa State's overall defensive performance in holding the Red Raiders to 17 points while forcing four turnovers?

BRUNS: Absolutely outstanding. The secondary did exactly what it had to by completely taking away the long ball and forcing turnovers. Free safety Marc Timmons hasn't been talked about much this year, and that is because people have found it very difficult throwing deep on him and the rest of the little guys out there in the back end. When Tech tried to run the ball out of an obvious formation, the Cyclones stuffed it. I like their offense; it is very creative and keeps you off balance. However, ISU did a great job of getting drives stopped and making things happen for themselves.

CN: Does the 189 yards rushing gained by Texas Tech concern you at all since the Cyclones are likely to face a lot of the same type of quick draws and trap plays out of a spread formation against Quentin Griffin and Oklahoma?

BRUNS: Obviously, Quentin is a much better player than the tailbacks/fullbacks of TT. He can break big plays and burn you badly if you sit back and let them come to you. Then again, Hybl is not Kliff Kingsbury either. I'd say we need to do the same fundamental things we did last week to succeed and force turnovers.

CN: Were you surprised by how conservative the Iowa State offense was in the first half against the Red Raiders?

BRUNS: I didn't think we were all that conservative. We had good drives going. The problem was that we did not get the execution in critical moments like we did on the second half. The coaches didn't go back to the drawing board and invent a new offense at halftime. We simply executed better in the second half: blocking, catching, throwing and running.

CN: Florida State defense that applies a lot of pressure up front. Oklahoma is even better at that. Does that worry you at all since the Cyclones will need to run the ball at least a little bit to take the heat off Seneca?

BRUNS: Oklahoma's defensive is obviously the best in the conference. However, you still need to balance the run game with the pass and get a ground game going. I'd say the ISU OL has its work cut out for it this game, but everyone you face in the league has a good front. ISU needs to be consistent enough up front that the 9-minute drive in the fourth quarter Saturday is not an anomaly, but the expectation. I would expect you'll see Michael, Hiawatha and Brian Thompson in the game.

CN: At times you've been a little critical of the offensive line this season. Do you think they're up to the challenge of facing a Sooner defensive line that features two future first round NFL draft picks in Jimmy Wilkerson?

BRUNS: Wow. These guys are darn good. They have a burst like a corner and get off the ball like a shot. The good news is we don't really rely on one on one pass protection and Seneca is so good at moving around it is silly; so I think we'll be OK in the passing game. The run game gets a lot tougher against guys like this. It will be interesting to see how far we've come in that phase this season. This will be the best interior line ISU sees. I honestly can't say at this point if we'll be up to it or not.

CN: The Sooners have some physical defensive backs, and at times last (like against Kansas State, for instance) we saw Iowa State's wide receivers struggle against that type of coverage. That was also evident in the first half against Texas Tech. Considering that, can they exploit the Oklahoma secondary in ways a Texas team with three future pros at wide receiver was unable to last week?

BRUNS: Teddy Lehman dropping back and taking the ball away. This OU defense is savvy and fast, and they can score points on you if you are not razor sharp.

CN: You mentioned All-American Teddy Lehman, who has defensive back speed. I would imagine he will be assigned to "shadow" Seneca, correct?

BRUNS: Yeah, Teddy is pretty amazing. I remember thinking I was glad Rocky Calmus was gone this year while watching them play last year. Then I watched a guy that looks exactly like Rocky EXCEPT BIGGER AND FASTER pick off a jump ball and rumble all over the field. I'm not sure anyone can really shadow Seneca because he throws so well, but Teddy would be a good choice if that is what they choose to do.

CN: Whew! Now I'm completely convinced the Cyclones have no shot after predicting the upset on Monday. Please tell me the Sooners are vulnerable somewhere on defense. They have struggled against mobile quarterbacks like Tyler Watts and Brad Smith this season.

BRUNS: Unfortunately, I only saw them playing a slow over-hyped QB this year, so I can't really speak to that. I do know that Seneca is the best around and will give you a chance to win any game you play--and he'll do it again this week.

CN: I actually think Oklahoma beat Texas (again) last week in spite of quarterback Nate Hybl. You agree?

BRUNS: Well, sort of. Texas had to try to overcome Chris Simms as well, so I think it was a wash. They are both two very good football teams with issues in that spot.

CN: I think Bob Stoops is developing into a Lou Holtz-class of gameday coach. You could make the argument his gutsy calls have sparked the Sooners' last two victories. He also has what many national analysts believe to be one of the finest staffs in America. However, we've also seen Mac exert his will at key times like halftime against Florida State and Iowa. How do you see the coaching matchup?

BRUNS: I don't think Oklahoma ever gets out coached, but the Cyclones have one of the hardest working and most dedicated staffs too.

CN: Is playing at 2:30 in Norman any tougher than playing a night game at Kinnick Stadium against an in-state rival desperate to break a four-year losing streak?

BRUNS: Yep, because you're playing Oklahoma, not Iowa. There is really no comparison between the two teams. Too bad we don't play in the Little 11. But, if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. The Big 12 gives you ample opportunity to do just that.

CN: I think Iowa State will win this game if it does two things: finish plus-2 in the turnover margin and scores more than 24 points. Give us your blueprint for an Iowa State victory over #2 Oklahoma.

BRUNS: I think that is an excellent outlook. The way you get there is by being sharp with the ball on offense and sound defensively. That is what ISU has to do. Seneca needs to put together his best performance yet.

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