I can understand the frustration. I can understand the disappointment. If you're a Cyclone fan and you're feeling either or both following yet another exasperating loss to a ranked opponent on the road, your feelings are justified.
I'm not a believer in being a Pollyanna fan that thinks your team can do no wrong. There's a difference between loyalty to your team and allegiance. One of the main things I've always admired about the Cyclone Nation is its per capita lack of cardinal-and-gold Kool-Aid drinkers.
If you're anguished about what might have been this season that's understandable. Are you thinking that if Texas Tech can go into its finale this week with a shot at a berth in the Big 12 Championship, why can't Iowa State? You're not alone.
There's probably a few people who happen to wear the uniforms and head-sets up in Ames who agree with you and share your sentiments. Nonetheless, before you boycott the final game of the season at Jack Trice Stadium against Connecticut and refuse to support the athletic department by purchasing season tickets for 2003, let me throw a word at you.
I know that perspective is a word none of us likes for two reasons. One, it forces us to step back and remember how painful the forgotten past used to be. Second, it makes us realize how shortsighted we are when we don't look at the present through the filter of how painful that past used to be.
Listen, do you disappointed fans think you're the only ones who are holding their noses somewhat about a berth in the Houston Bowl? When the Cyclones were 6-1 and ranked ninth in the country, do you think those players at coaches inside the Jacobson Building thought they'd have to "settle" for the Tangerine Bowl? Of course not. But how about recognizing what a great accomplishment it is for Dan McCarney that some of you are angry about "settling" for any bowl when for over 20 years you were so desperate you'd have gladly called your travel agent for a trip to Boise?
How do you think fans of Texas A&M, Nebraska, Syracuse, BYU, Washington, Clemson, and Michigan State feel right now? This collection of schools has had numerous top 10 teams over the years, and even national titles and Heisman Trophy winners. All of them have a tradition and facilities most of you would kill for, but you're having a better season than each of these schools despite a murderous schedule. With a little perspective, you'd be proud of that.
This season was a learning experience for the program and the fans. The players realized through a brutal five-week stretch just what it takes to be a champion, to be a team of significance. Believe me, that will pay more dividends down the road than any win over Iowa or narrow loss to Florida State. When the 40 of the top 48 players on this team who are underclassmen report for winter conditioning next January they'll be motivated like never before--if past history is indeed indicative of future success.
In 2000, that great senior class was motivated by a 1999 season that saw the Cyclones miss opportunity after opportunity to break a generation-long postseason drought. Last season's seniors wanted to prove that 2000's 9-3 record wasn't a fluke and that Iowa State wasn't a flash in the pan. This season's seniors were determined to make a third straight bowl game for the first time in school history, despite a schedule only a sadist could love. Next year's seniors will be looking to serve notice that there's a new Big 12 power in Ames. Iowa State was repeatedly brushed aside by greatness this fall, and that will motivate them to achieve it next autumn.
Departing seniors bestowing legacies of success, expectations, and overcoming failure to underclassmen; that's how you build a program. That's exactly what's going on at Iowa State.
You fans are learning to deal with expectations. You're learning to understand where some of the preposterousness of the Hawkeye Nation comes from. Success demands success. Once you start feeding the appetite of expectations, it's never satisfied.
However, some of you need to pause and realize how much progress has been made thus far. I'm reminded of something the great actor Morgan Freeman once said in a commercial for the Martin Luther King Museum: "If you don't think things have changed, then you need to go back and see how far we've come."
I could run down the decades of futility for you, but most of you lived through them. I'm the outsider here, so you don't need that lecture from me.
Just remember that the Iowa State program is still a work in progress. I know watching Seneca Wallace commit eight turnovers in two games while his counterpart in Iowa City is climbing the Heisman Trophy flagpole is difficult for you. I know succumbing to superior opposition while Iowa is demonstrating its superiority is difficult for you, too. Heck, no one knows more than I that our co-workers, friends, and loved ones among us who are Hawkeye fans can define the word difficult at times.
But there are at least eight reasons why you should be proud of the 2002 Iowa State football team, the late season struggles notwithstanding. They're the eight seniors you'll be saying good-bye to on Saturday: Zach Butler, DeWayne Johnson, Kyle Knock, Beau Coleman, Jeremy Loyd, Matt Word, Atif Austin, and Seneca Wallace. Butler came from Iowa City and broke family tradition to help Mac make Iowa State a winner. Guys like Loyd and Wallace were unheralded junior college players who saw the Cyclones win the Insight.com Bowl and thought Iowa State would give them a chance to play big-time college football in the Big 12.
Each of these young men has their own story that deserves to be heard Saturday. They continued a standard of winning at Iowa State, and they did it with class on and off the field. How will you choose to recognize their achievements this weekend, with a half-empty Jack Trice Stadium? Dozens upon dozens of angry message board posts? A ho-hum response to bowl game ticket sales? Phone calls to my radio show saying there's no way McCarney and his assistants deserve a raise now?
You fans play a part in the evolution of this program, too. Keep that in mind, because the eight men who will be leaving Iowa State won't be the only ones paying attention this week. So will the underclassmen, prospective recruits, and Mac.
Weekly Top 25
If I had a vote in the AP Poll, here's what my ballot would've looked like this week:
1. Miami, Fla. (9-0)
Last week: 1
This week: #12 Pittsburgh
2. Ohio State (12-0)
Last week: 2
This week: #11 Michigan
3. Iowa (11-1)
Last week: 5
This week: season over
4. Washington State (9-1)
Last week: 3
This week: Washington
5. Oklahoma (9-1)
Last week: 4
This week: #23 Texas Tech
6. Georgia (10-1)
Last week: 7
This week: idle
7. Notre Dame (9-1)
Last week: 8
This week: Rutgers
8. Kansas State (9-2)
Last week: 9
This week: at Missouri
9. USC (8-2)
Last week: 10
This week: at #24 UCLA
10. Alabama (9-2)
Last week: 11
This week: at Auburn
11. Michigan (9-2)
Last week: 12
This week: at #2 Ohio State
12. Texas (9-2)
Last week: 6
This week: idle
13. Pittsburgh (8-2)
Last week: 15
This week: at #1 Miami, Fla.
14. Virginia Tech (8-2)
Last week: 13
This week: at West Virginia
15. Florida State (8-3)
Last week: 16
This week: at N.C. State
16. Penn State (8-3)
Last week: 17
This week: Michigan State
17. Maryland (9-2)
Last week: 19
This week: at Virginia
18. Colorado State (9-2)
Last week: 18
This week: New Mexico
19. Colorado (8-3)
Last week: 21
This week: at Nebraska
20. Florida (8-3)
Last week: 22
This week: idle
21. LSU (7-3)
Last week: 14
This week: Mississippi
22. TCU (8-1)
Last week: 24
This week: at East Carolina
23. Texas Tech (8-4)
Last week: NR
This week: at #4 Oklahoma
24. UCLA (7-3)
Last week: NR
This week: #9 USC
25. Boise State (10-1)
Last week: NR
This week: at Nevada
Dropped out: #20 N.C. State, #23 Oregon, #25 Auburn
My Heisman Ballot
- Ken Dorsey (QB-Miami, Fla.)…Repeat the mantra: 35-1 as a starting quarterback.
- Brad Banks (QB-Iowa)…Better than Chuck Long, and he finished second.
- Jason Gesser (QB-Washington State)…With two more wins, and a little cooperation, he could have the Cougars playing for the national title.
- Carson Palmer (QB-USC)…Has a two-week audition for the part with back-to-back games on national television against arch-rivals UCLA and Notre Dame.
- Larry Johnson (RB-Penn State)…Has already broke and set the single-season rushing mark in Happy Valley three times this season.
Updated Bowl Projections
New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 17: Sun Belt Champ vs. Conference USA #5)
GMAC Bowl (Dec. 18: Conference USA #2 vs. MAC #1/2)
Louisville (8-4) vs. Marshall (10-2)
Tangerine Bowl (Dec. 23: ACC #4 vs. Big 12)
Iowa State (8-5) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)
Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 25: Mountain West #2 vs. Pac-10 #5)
Air Force (9-3) vs. UCLA (7-5)
Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 25: Conference USA #4 vs. WAC #3)
Tulane (7-4) vs. Hawaii (10-3)
*Motor City Bowl (Dec. 26: MAC #1/2 vs. Big Ten #7)
Insight.com Bowl (Dec. 26: Big East #3/Notre Dame vs. Pac-10 #4)
Virginia Tech (9-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)
Houston Bowl (Dec. 27: Conference USA #3 vs. Big 12 #6)
Texas Tech (8-5) vs. Southern Mississippi (7-5)
Independence Bowl (Dec. 27: Big 12 #5 vs. SEC #7)
Nebraska (8-5) vs. Mississippi (6-6)
Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27: Pac-10 #2 vs. Big 12 #3)\
USC (10-2) vs. Kansas State (10-2)
Alamo Bowl (Dec. 28: Big Ten #4 vs. Big 12 #4)
Minnesota (7-5) vs. Colorado (8-5)
Continental Tire Bowl (Dec. 28: Big East vs. ACC)
Boston College (8-4) vs. Clemson (7-5)
*Seattle Bowl (Dec. 30: Mountain West #4 vs. ACC)
Virginia (8-5) vs. Washington (6-6)
Music City Bowl (Dec. 30: Big Ten #6 vs. SEC #6)
Purdue (6-6) vs. Auburn (7-5)
Humanitarian Bowl (Dec. 31: WAC #2 vs. Big 12)
Boise State (11-1) vs. Texas A&M (6-6)
Sun Bowl (Dec. 31: Big Ten #5 vs. Pac-10 #3)
Silicon Valley Classic (Dec. 31: WAC #1 vs. Pac-10)
Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31: Conference USA #1 vs. Mountain West #1)
TCU (10-1) vs. Colorado State (11-2)
Peach Bowl (Dec. 31: ACC #3 vs. SEC #5)
N.C. State (10-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)
San Francisco Bowl (Dec. 31: Mountain West vs. Big East)
New Mexico (7-6) vs. West Virginia (7-5)
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #3 vs. SEC)
Michigan (9-3) vs. Arkansas (9-4)
Cotton Bowl (Jan. 1: Big 12 #2 vs. SEC)
Texas (10-2) vs. LSU (8-4)
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1: Big East #2/Notre Dame vs. ACC #2)
Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. Maryland (10-3)
Capitol One Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2)
Florida (8-4) vs. Penn State (9-3)
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1: Big Ten #1 vs. Pac-10 #1)
Iowa (11-1) vs. Washington State (11-1)
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1: SEC #1 vs. BCS At-large)
Florida State (9-4) vs. Georgia (12-1)
Orange Bowl (Jan. 2: ACC/Big East #1 vs. BCS At-large)
Notre Dame (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (12-1)
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3: BCS #1 vs. BCS #2)
Ohio State (13-0) vs. Miami, Fla. (12-0)
*We project the Mountain West Conference and Big Ten Conference will not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of their allotted slots.
(Steve Deace can be heard each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines, the flagship for the Cyclone Radio Network)