"It was just my gut and evaluation that it looked like we were a tired team overall," said McCarney, whose team fell to 7-6 and will now await a third straight bowl invite. "The best thing we've got going for us right now is an eight-day break for the players. We go right back to work as a staff, but the players need a break and they're going to get one. I don't even want them thinking about football right now."
It will be hard for the Cyclones though to not think of letting another one get away. Turnovers, particularly from the quarterback position, continued to plague ISU in its regular season finale. UConn turned three turnovers into points Saturday afternoon and picked quarterback Seneca Wallace off four times.
Those turnovers, along with a 68-yard momentum-swinging touchdown run from Terry Caulley, proved to bring about the Cyclones' downfall.
"Anytime you make a big play, that's a momentum builder for your team," said ISU safety Anthony Forrest. "You can keep rolling as a team and that's exactly what they did. They made the plays they needed to make to win this game."
Wallace, who completed just 19-of-44 passes for 216 yards and four interceptions, brought his turnover tally to 13 in the past three games. Three of his four picks against the Huskies came in a span of just over 13 minutes in the second half.
Playing his final game at Jack Trice Stadium, Wallace made himself unavailable for comment afterwards.
"He wants to be a great ball security quarterback, a quarterback that makes good decisions and one that doesn't put us in a hole," McCarney said. "He also does have a lot of confidence in himself and the plays that he can make and throws he can make. There are a lot of reasons why with the success he's had this year.
"He'd like to have a couple of those throws back. We'll get that solved and taken care of. It's hard to overcome turnovers to win football games. We've had three weeks where we've really struggled with that."
The Cyclones look to finally gain some sort of control four minutes into the third quarter when Brian Thompson dashed 29 yards into the end zone for a 20-10 lead. But any sort of confidence was short lived. Two plays into the ensuing drive and just 45 seconds later, though, Caulley ran through the heart of ISU's defense untouched into the end zone.
From that point on, Cyclone turnovers became more abundant than yards and UConn's balanced offense wore down an exhausted defense. The Huskies added a pair of Dan Orlovsky touchdown passes in five minutes to take a commanding 31-20 lead with 13:14 to play. Two Wallace interceptions led to Marc Hickok field goals to ice the 17-point victory.
"I don't want to make any excuses, but everybody's banged up, tired and sick of hitting each other," said ISU defensive end Tyson Smith. "We came out not focused. But you've got to give credit for them. They came back and beat us bad. It hurts. We had the lead and let it slip. This loss hurts us bad. We wanted to go out and play for these seniors. We'll get a week off and hopefully that's enough."
ISU now turns its focus to a potential bowl berth. After preaching to his players to lock up a warm weather postseason destination in recent weeks, McCarney said he'd be happy to take to any bowl at 7-6.
"I'd go anywhere to play another game right now," he said. "Bruce (Van De Velde) and I will work together along with the Big 12 Conference and do everything we can to get the best opportunity for this program. We do have a real fine team and a lot of snaps today we may not have played like that. It's a classy program and I think would be a very attractive team to bring to a bowl site."