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: Let's start with your overall assessment of the Missouri game.
BRUNS: I thought that it was a great game by the offense, particularly Seneca Wallace. I thought the offensive line played relatively well, along with Michael Wagner. The defense stood in there toe-to-toe with a very explosive offense; and if you take a few mistakes away, Missouri only has 21 points.
CN: How much running do you think punt team has done in practice this week after their two second half breakdowns almost cost the Cyclones the game?
BRUNS: The very frustrating thing about its performance was the fact that Missouri was able to block a punt when they were in "punt safe." Punt safe is where the regular defense is on the field in an attempt to take any opportunity for a fake away. They only rushed four guys, and the defensive end just man-handled ISU's end one-on-one after the snap was low, and it took Tony some time to get it off. They'll obviously have to do much better against Kansas State, because KSU loves to tee off and block punts.
CN: We finally saw Jordan Carstens re-assert himself in the opponent's offensive backfield for the first time in a few weeks. Did the caliber of competition have something to do with that?
BRUNS: I wouldn't say that Jordan hasn't been playing well because he has taken care of his responsibility each down in the last two games. I think that Jordan's contribution is one part of a Cyclone defensive unit that relies on many parts being strong to make the whole. The better the guys around him play, the better he can play because he is asked to do less. For example, even when Reggie Hayward and James Reed were here playing in similar positions as Jordan and Tyson Smith on Saturday, their defensive line stunts and X-games on passing downs were not as good as what we saw Saturday late in the game. I was extremely impressed with how that entire defensive front was reacting and executing its responsibilities.
CN: Did Seneca Wallace's record-setting offensive output put him back on the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race?
BRUNS: No. Who saw it? Unfortunately, the Heisman race is as much about perception and hype as it is performance. Seneca easily played his best game of the year, yet ABC wasn't there to tell the nation that he is the best player around. Everybody saw Ken Dorsey and Willis McGahee, and the Marshall-loving media all told us how wonderful Byron Leftwich is (against second-rate opponents). The next few weeks are going to be big for the Cyclones and Seneca, because the Heisman is won and lost with conference championships.
CN: When was the last time you saw an Iowa State quarterback engineer an 18-play, length of the field drive to win a game like Seneca did against Missouri?
BRUNS: It reminded of me when he drove down and scored the game-tying touchdown against Florida State. Not that I am bitter.J
CN: Assess Brian Thompson's increased playing time at running back. Did you like what you saw?
BRUNS: I thought it was relatively apparent by the time the game was over that Thompson is a good running back, but that the running game is won and lost with the offensive line's performance. That was the same Michael Wagner that struggled against Oklahoma out there Saturday. When we play well up front, we can run the ball. When we don't, we can't.
CN: Was it just me, or did we see Michael Wagner run with unprecedented aggressiveness? He really finished off his runs Saturday. Was it any coincidence that it happened the same week Mac said to expect more playing time from Thompson?
BRUNS: I think Michael is mature enough in his career that being pushed by an underclassman for playing time is not what motivates him. I don't think he changed how he looked at the game. And to say otherwise is an insult to a hard-working guy.
CN: We saw the so-called "slip screen" used very effectively on offense as well. Is that an adjustment the offensive coaches have made with the running game struggling the past few weeks?
BRUNS: It's a good play to attack the edges of a defense when you struggle running outside with option and toss. The concepts are very similar, and it forces a team playing you to be spread wider.
CN: Were you happy with the crowd of 44,000+ for the final conference home game of the season?
BRUNS: I thought it was a pretty good crowd. I thought we didn't see very many people leaving at the start of the fourth quarter. They got to see an excellent football game and a Cyclone team that was determined to win no matter what. And they were pretty dog gone loud for as cool as it was.
CN: The Detroit News reported earlier this week that Dan McCarney would be one of the top candidates the Michigan State folks would be like to interview for their coaching vacancy. When questioned about this at his weekly press conference, Mac said he wouldn't guarantee he'd be back next season because "there are no guarantees in life." But he did explicitly say it was his desire to remain at Iowa State provided him and his assistants are taken care of. He also said it would be hard to leave here. What should Iowa State fans make of his comments?
BRUNS: I don't know why Coach Mac wouldn't talk to Michigan State. Quite frankly, I think he has struggled getting what he wants and needs from the Iowa State administration. I know Mac wants to stay here, but it should be on his terms because he was proven himself to be one of the best head coaches around. Who works harder than he does? Who recruits harder? Who requires more accountability from