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: Is Oklahoma 46 points better than Iowa State?
BRUNS: No, but with the way that they played Saturday there's not a doubt in my mind that they would have beaten Miami had the Hurricanes come to town. We got behind early and couldn't function offensively, and that's as much a credit to the Sooner defense as it is a knock on our offense.
CN: How demoralized are the Cyclones following such a drubbing?
BRUNS: I think it's got to be difficult for them because this team believed they could beat anyone. With this schedule they are facing, they have to continue to believe that. Unfortunately, losing that badly makes it a little harder to believe. But we'll see this Saturday how good their faith is.
CN: Did you ever envision the game would turn out to be such a blowout?
BRUNS: Not once ever. Even late in the second half I anticipated our offense would come on line and do something. For them to be so completely shut down all day was something I never envisioned.
CN: Are there any parallels between this game and the 56-7 loss you suffered as a senior at Kansas State?
BRUNS: Yeah. We knew that Kansas State in 2000 was going to try and stop the run, which was our bread and butter at the time. They packed all sorts of people in the box and tried to make us beat them with the pass. Going into the game, we knew Sage Rosenfels was going to have to have a good game in order to win, and I think the pressure got to him as evidenced by his performance in that game. Oklahoma in 2002 put Iowa State in a different situation: daring us to run the ball while mixing up coverages. That made it difficult for Seneca to get any kind of rhythm. Going into both games everybody knew the quarterback needed to play well, and they both ended up looking like deer in the headlights.
CN: John Quinn, your cohort on the Cyclone Radio Network, told me earlier this week he thinks Iowa State was rattled by the atmosphere in Norman, the weather, all of the media hype, and playing on such large, national stage. You agree with any of that?
BRUNS: I agree that some of the players were obviously affected by all of the above, but not all of them. And I don't think it's really fair to say Jordan Carstens, Brandon Brown, Tyson Smith, and Jeremy Loyd didn't perform at a high level. Did they play perfect? No. But did they give it their best and play at a high level? Yes. I felt all of those guys played very good football. It's also not fair when some of your other teammates don't come to play because it's cold, etc. It's important to remember that you win as a team and lose as a team, but it can be a disappointing feeling to know you played your heart out and perhaps know that some of your teammates didn't come ready to play.
CN: To get a gauge on just how good Oklahoma is, can you compare and contrast their talent level with Florida State's?
BRUNS: Florida State has a much more explosive offense, pretty good special teams (but not quite as good as Oklahoma's), but defensively are not as good as Oklahoma. Oklahoma's defense is every bit as fast or faster, much more physical, and better coached.
CN: How many of Iowa State's starters would start for Oklahoma do you think?
BRUNS: I think a fair amount; I wouldn't put a number on it.
CN: How difficult is it for Iowa State to tuck this loss away and move on?
BRUNS: I don't think that it will be that hard to move on, but you also don't want to just forget about a game like this. All week long this game will eat at them and help provide the fuel to take practice and competition to the next level. If things are going really well, you tend to relax. It's a natural human instinct. Something like this brings you back to earth, refocuses you, and if you are a competitor makes you work all that much harder to never let it happen again.
CN: Regardless of how disappointed the Cyclones are, they still control their own destiny in the Big 12 North race. I'm sure Mac is communicating that this week. How much are the players listening?
BRUNS: I think every single one of them would like nothing better than a chance to see Oklahoma again in Houston. There's only one way to do that.
CN: Does it seem fair to you that Seneca Wallace has seemingly dropped off the Heisman Trophy radar a week after he was far out in front of the race?
BRUNS: No. Obviously, no one in the race has had as tough a day as Seneca did last weekend in Norman. I was a little surprised that he never exploded and played like we've come to expect him throughout the course of an entire game, and I am sure the voters were, too. But if he has the kind of resolve that I think he does and comes back and has a great run down the stretch, there's no reason he still shouldn't be considered at the top. Seneca and the Cyclones have a lot more to play for this season, and the good news is that they get a chance to try and make things right on Saturday at Texas.
CN: Was he beginning to get distracted and overwhelmed by all of the media attention? I thought the whole toga thing last week on ESPN's College Gameday was taking it a little far. Will it be good for him to just go back to being the quarterback at Iowa State for a while? For the first time in his career we witnessed him express some visible frustration over all the Heisman talk after the Oklahoma game.
BRUNS: I can't wait to see how he plays this week. I can only imagine how difficult it is to have to deal with people being in your house all week long for weeks on end, filming you, watching you, interviewing you…and at the same time trying to compete at the highest level on the nation's greatest stage. Hopefully he'll get the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the game for what it is, not for what it expects him to be.
CN: Texas, this week's opponent, is considered by many to be among the most talented teams in the country. Their offensive talent is better than Oklahoma's, and their defense -- while not as dominant -- is statistically impressive. How much of a chance do you give Iowa State in this game?
BRUNS: I don't even think that it matters who we're playing, and I understand that's a hefty statement going into a game against Texas. But the bottom line is that everyone in the Cyclone football family needs to have his best game each week from here on out. Everything else will take care of itself.
CN: How do the offensive coaches reinvigorate the running game during this rugged portion of the schedule? Is it pretty much a washout for the season now?
BRUNS: I think they still have to try to use the running game to keep opponents off balance, but quite honestly it's not good enough to set up the pass. We have to use the pass to set up the run and keep teams guessing.
CN: Is there a particular mismatch in this game that works to Iowa State's favor?
BRUNS: I haven't watched UT enough to be able to really answer that question. I think the greatest mismatch could be between the ears of the Longhorn players. If they, like their predecessors, take Iowa State for granted (which they more than likely will) it is a huge advantage. Texas is by far the most arrogant opponent I ever played against.
CN: Texas has a bit of a rap for being soft. Do you buy that?
BRUNS: I don't think you can play and win in the Big 12 by being soft. I do think that Chris Simms doesn't respond well to pressure situations.
CN: All but one of the Longhorns' stud receivers are ailing, at least somewhat . How do the Cyclones matchup in the secondary?
BRUNS: You've got to make plays on the ball, because no matter whom Texas puts on the field, they are going to be tall, athletic, and skilled. Our guys have great instincts; they need to focus on taking the ball away from them.
CN: How much of a factor could Chris Simms' tendency to make mistakes at key junctures or collapse under game-pressures work to Iowa State's favor?
BRUNS: The key to that is to put some pressure on him. This is the sort of game where Chris Simms could be lights out because he fully expects to win, just like all of their other players, coaches, and fans. You have to plant the seed of doubt early and often to take advantage.
CN: Finally, give us your blueprint for an Iowa State victory over Texas.
BRUNS: Heart. Tenacity. Execution.