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: How demoralizing was the 58-7 loss to Kansas State?
BRUNS: I'm going to start by saying if you are easily offended, do not read this week's column. I have some very strong opinions about why we are where we are at this point, and I'm not sure some people want to hear it. If I do offend you, please realize it is nothing I would not tell you to your face.
Quite frankly, I know every fan out there is not just demoralized, but upset. I am, and it made me sick to watch last weekend. As for the Cyclones, I'm not sure some of them care as much as I--which is bad.
CN: How does a team with so much at stake, and a chance to do something no other team in school-history has done in a long time, lay such an egg?
BRUNS: I think the Cyclones are struggling to find leaders who will point to themselves and say: "I screwed up, it was my fault, and I'm not going to let it happen again." I believe firmly that in order to be a leader, you first have to point the finger at yourself. If you are not holding yourself to a higher standard than other people, you're wrong, and you're not really a leader but a cancer. We have some guys who are willing to talk the talk, but when push comes to shove they don't lay themselves on the line.
CN: The last three years Kansas State is 25-11. The last three years Iowa State is 23-12. Those records are fairly comparable. However, the combined score of the last three meetings is K-State 154, Iowa State 17. Why?
BRUNS: Kansas State is extremely physical when they play us for whatever reason. Perhaps because they know it is an easy way to win a game. I loved to play in games in which all you had to do was go toe-to-toe and not be fancy; so do they. Unfortunately, I think we have not been tough enough to stand up to them across the line. There are those Cyclones that can stand up and say they gave their all and played a darn good football game against KSU, and I would like to say thanks to those guys (they know who they are). However, to a man ISU cannot make that statement.
CN: In my "Monday Musings" column on our Web site I pointed out several instances the past three years in which, just when it seemed the Cyclones were ready to take that next step, a humiliating loss happens. Is Iowa State just not quite there yet?
BRUNS: I feel we have the talent to win any game we play. I also feel like our coaching staff does a good job of preparing. However, you have to have ultimate confidence to win a game like that. Obviously, that is taking a while to generate here.
CN: The Iowa State fans who are hardened by a generation of losing say this is the main reason they still haven't bought into the recent success of the program and purchased season tickets. What do you say to those folks?
BRUNS: I think it is a ridiculous excuse. I think there are people who, deep in their hearts, want us to lose because they can stay emotionally detached. They don't want to get hurt again if they get too involved with the program and something bad happens. You're a fan or you're not; it's really pretty easy.
CN: Mac said after the game Saturday night that K-State was the best team Iowa State has faced this season. Do you agree with that?
BRUNS: Maybe on that night, but I think Oklahoma still has a pretty good ball club.
CN: What has happened to Seneca Wallace during the second half of the season? Is it completely attributed to the schedule?
BRUNS: I don't really know. Seneca is so even-keeled; it doesn't seem to bother him. Some people think that is a good thing. At this point in the year, I frankly want to see him pissed off, because he should be.
CN: It seems like this team hasn't executed with the same efficiency since the Oklahoma debacle. Even in the Missouri game there were key mental lapses on special teams that nearly cost ISU the win. Is it possible that loss rattled the Cyclones' collective psyche that much?
BRUNS: I think Oklahoma took the invincibility out of us. There is something to be said for believing you can't be beaten, and the Sooners stomped that idea into the ground. Bottom line: you have to be mentally tough to put that behind you and move on and realize you have some greater things to accomplish.
CN: I did some research this week and came up with an interesting statistic. Not since Jim Criner's 1985 squad lost 57-3 to #3 Iowa and 49-0 to #3 Nebraska has an Iowa State team lost twice in a season by 46 points or more. Not even in Jim Walden's 0-10-1 grand finale in 1994 did that happen. You know the pitiful condition of the program prior to Mac's arrival as well as anyone else. Given the level of coaching and talent now compared to those years, how do you explain a team with Seneca Wallace at quarterback achieving this dubious distinction?
BRUNS: If I knew the answer to that question, I'd be calling the shots…and I'm not, so there you go.
CN: We both know the ISU coaches don't lack for confidence and enthusiasm. I think we both agree the leadership provided by team captains Wallace, Zach Butler, Chris Whitaker, Jordan Carstens is of high character. So what is the problem then? Are these games being lost in the hearts and minds of the players prior to kickoff? Do they just not believe they're capable of competing with the Big 12's elite teams yet?
BRUNS: Is the leadership really of that high a character? I think there is a lack of toughness among certain individuals that has been tolerated by the leadership of this team, and it makes me ill.
CN: I must say I have been surprised by how much Mac & coaching staff bashing there has been in the aftermath of the Kansas State fiasco. To say that Mac and his coaches don't deserve a raise now is really losing perspective on the kind of door-mat the Cyclones were before he arrived, in my opinion. What are your thoughts on that?
BRUNS: I agree completely. I think the smartest thing Bruce Van De Velde could ever do at this point is give Mac the contract he needs to stay here. How is there a better way to show you have confidence in a guy than stepping up to the plate when times get tough. This program has come so far since Mac arrived it is ridiculous. You don't want to let another great coach go because of disappointment. Don't think for a minute Mac wouldn't think about leaving, because he is a man of ho