Football Notebook: The Road to Recovery

Seneca Wallace appears to have gotten the edge back that made him one of the top players in the country. The Heisman Trophy candidate, along with the whole Iowa State team in general, bounced back with one of the season's best practices on Monday.

But after completing just 4-of-22 passes and throwing three interceptions, even Wallace could use a rest. The senior quarterback, who has been subject to national media attention during recent weeks, missed Tuesday's weekly press conference in Ames with an academic obligation.

It's a much-needed break for a relative newcomer to the national scene who had more than his fair share of distractions off the field to go along with a frustrating afternoon on the field Saturday in Norman.

"It's been a load," said ISU head coach Dan McCarney. "I don't know if it's worn him down. It's non-stop. You've gone from a junior college where you probably never had any interviews to getting a pretty good taste of it last year to it being non-stop and relentless this year every time he turns around. We're not putting him off limits. He does have an academic conflict today and will be available after the game Saturday."

While the Cyclone head coach made it clear that the Oklahoma game is old news, much of this week will be spent getting the team right after a 49-3 loss to the Sooners. That includes Wallace, who is coming off of his lowest production day as a Cyclone.

But Wallace should feel no more pressure than any other offensive player, said McCarney, since the entire unit contributed one way or another to Saturday's output of just 60 total yards.

"I'm really not (worried about Seneca Wallace)," McCarney said. "He's got a lot of maturity about him and has a lot of class and character. I don't think he feels like that it was his fault we lost the game. He knows this is a team game and we didn't play well as a football team. But based on what I saw yesterday out at practice, he came back and had a great look in his eye and is very determined to play better this week. I'd be very surprised if he didn't.

"We've gone all the way to being top-10 in the country with everybody doing their part," he said. "I don't think that he's ever had the pressure that he has to be sensational every snap for us to succeed. Everybody has to do their job—our receivers, offensive line, backs and tight ends—and we have a lot of room to improve. Let's step it up and do a better job and be more accountable, effective and do a better job this week. I don't want Seneca to feel any more pressure than that."

Although he wasn't on hand to speak on the subject, wide receiver Jack Whitver said he feels Wallace has put Saturday's effort behind him.

"I'm sure it's been tough for him, but the good thing about Seneca is he doesn't let things rattle him," Whitver said. "Whether he didn't have a good play or something like that, he doesn't let things rattle him. So if anyone on this team can handle all of the time demands and pressure it would be Seneca."

If Wallace, Whitver and the ISU aerial attack returns to form, it will need some help from a ground game that wasn't heard from against Oklahoma. Mike Wagner and Hiawatha Rutland netted just 40 yards on 14 carries combined. An overall lack of production on first and second downs put the Cyclones in quite a few 3rd-and-long situations.

"We have got to get our running game going," McCarney said. "We can't go through the next five weeks handing it off a few times, get whacked in the face and then just expect we're going to protect, throw and catch to win games. We have got to do a great job this week and have really challenged our offense to get our running game going."

UT receiving corps no ‘Lone Star' Show

With all due respect to Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, the group of wideouts ISU faces this weekend will be the most talented to date. In their third year playing together, B.J. Johnson, Roy Williams and Sloan Thomas form arguably the best receiving trio in the school's storied history.

Since breaking onto the scene as true freshmen in 2000, the trio has combined for 290 receptions for 4,515 yards and 37 touchdowns in 30 career games.

Thomas and Williams have split starting duties this season, but rank first and second, respectively, in catches. Thomas has caught 22 balls for 299 yards and two scores, while Williams leads the team in touchdowns with three on 21 receptions for 353 yards. Johnson, who leads the squad with 16.9 yards per catch , has started all seven games.

"They're one of the best groups of receivers in college football, no doubt about it," McCarney said. "We see lots of them in this league. But they're real outstanding. There are no short ones in there or little guys that happen to run fast and have good feet. They've got height, can jump and are athletic.

"About the time you see people double-teaming number four and trying to take him out of the game, then here comes (B.J.) Johnson and he's wide open, one-on-one and making the big athletic catches. They're loaded, have great talent and use a lot of wide receivers. Then (Chris) Simms can get it to them."

Shoring up punt game

The Cyclones are working to make sure their second blocked punt of the season, which came at a pivotal stage early in the first quarter against Oklahoma, will be the last.

"One is too many and we've had two of them," McCarney said. "We don't like that. We had a miscommunication (on Saturday) and it's something we've covered. We didn't get it done on game day and need to do a better job of coaching it. Some of their stunts and blitzes that they came at us with defensively were new and we hadn't seen those, but the punt block was not anything new. It was poor communication."

Aside from the blocked punt, however, Tony Yelk fared relatively well in taking Oklahoma's return men out of the equation. The redshirt sophomore recovered from the blocked punt and 21-yarder on his ensuing attempt to average 35.2 yards, kicking a majority of his attempts out of bounds. As a result, the Sooners returned just three of nine attempts for 29 yards.


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