Cyclone Nation™ January Issue Sneak Peek!
This month's issue has a little something for everybody. Here's what you can find in the next issue of Cyclone Nation Magazine:
Our cover story focuses on Iowa State football's graduating class of 2002. Read what each of the Cyclones' seniors have to say about their experience inside the ISU program.
- 2002 in Review
Want to relive the highs and lows of the just completed football season? CN editor Steve Deace hands out his awards for the best and worst of Iowa State football in 2002.
- Media Roundtable
This month our media panel focuses on the big story of Iowa State's 2002 football season.
- Big Shoes (Literally) to Fill
Read about Lisa Kriener and Brittany Wilkins, who are trying to fill departed All-American Angie Welle's shoes on the women's basketball team.
- Big 12 Recruiting Rankings
Noted recruiting analyst Van Coleman breaks down all of the fall men's basketball recruiting classes in the Big 12.
- CLONED's Hot List
CN recruiting analyst CLONED ranks all of Iowa State's known football commitments as of press time and gives his scouting report on each.
- Year One: A.C.
Coach Bobby Douglas and the Iowa State wrestling program focus on like after Cael Sanderson.
- The New Kids in Town
- Inside the Cyclones
Coordinators Steve Brickey and John Skladany break down the 2002 football season. This month's sneak peek includes this article you can read below. Otherwise, if you're not currently a subscriber you can become one by clicking here:
The 2002 Iowa State football season can best be described as a roller coaster ride that was full of peaks and valleys. Coach Dan McCarney's squad won six of its first seven games, and then dropped five of six down the stretch for a 7-6 record that included a third place finish in the Big 12 North. Highlight reel plays from Seneca Wallace and an aggressive defense gave way to a rash of costly turnovers from the former Heisman Trophy candidate and thorough domination by opposing offenses. Two men that experienced the highs and lows of the season intimately were offensive coordinator Steve Brickey and defensive coordinator John Skladany. Iowa State's football brain trust sat down with Cyclone Nation to give their review of the season.
CN: Let's start with the offensive side of the ball and its positives. Coach Brickey, what were some of the high points for this year's unit?
Brickey: Going into the last game, I certainly felt like we had done a lot more good things offensively than not. The Connecticut game kind of took a little bit out of all us in terms of feeling good about we've done and ourselves. But you have take a look at the fact we lost an NFL tight end, NFL running back, NFL offensive guard and two offensive tackles that were in NFL camps from last season's team, and this year's schedule was considerably tougher.
When you look at all those factors going into the season, I feel relatively good about things. Our points per game were up three points from a year ago. All of our passing statistics were up from a year ago. Our total offensive statistics were up from a year ago. You have to feel good about all those things when you consider the graduation losses we suffered.
We scored almost 70 points more this year in the second half of games. We did play two more games, but that tells me we're making pretty good halftime adjustments in the things we're zeroing in on. A year ago we were fifth in the conference in penalties and this year we were first. Getting better red zone efficiency was something we really zeroed in on last spring and talked about from day one with this offense. We did improve that. It's up considerably from last year. We made a lot more field goals and that helped.
CN: How about some of the negatives?
Brickey: There are areas that certainly we would have liked to have done better. We didn't rush the ball poorly, but we didn't rush it like we had in the past around here. That was an area that did drop off. Probably the biggest disappointment was this rash of turnovers in the last three games. Up until that point, in the three years I've been here we've been an outstanding team in terms of turnovers. Through the first 10 games we were on pace to be as good or better than we've been. We got really hit hard with the turnover bug in the last three games and that hurt us.
CN: As you look back at certain games in which the offense didn't click as well, how much did the lack of a running game handcuff you as a play-caller?
Brickey: I'm not looking for any excuses regarding the play calling or me. For the most part we did OK in that area. Particularly the second half stuff points out that we had our finger on the pulse real well of what we needed to do at halftime to make some adjustments. But there is no doubt it certainly makes it easier when you know you've got some things you can do running the football, and it helps to keep a defense guessing. When you're really struggling to run the ball and they pretty well know you've got to throw it, it does make it a little tougher.
Texas Tech was really the first defense that kind of figured out a couple things about us. Once it became fairly evident that we weren't quite as proficient running the football, the second half of the season some of the defenses we played had a couple of things they took away from us in the passing game because they knew we had trouble running it.
CN: Is there any one particular reason for the increase in turnovers in the last three games?
Brickey: I don't think there's any way you can lump them all together. There are three or four or five different factors that figure into that. It wasn't any one thing.
It runs all the way from a couple of fluke things. Against UCONN, one of the interceptions was a simultaneous catch between our receiver and their guy. As they both fell to the ground, the ball pops out and right to one of their guys. The second interception was a tipped ball that happened to ricochet right to their defensive back, instead of going to the ground.
Against Colorado, we literally just dropped two shotgun snaps. That's never been an issue or thing before. I attribute that to Seneca Wallace trying to get going too quick, because he's wanting so badly to go make a play. The kid's so competitive and wants to make something happen. It's not like it's something we don't practice over and over. We take shotgun snaps all week long in practice.
Then, as outstanding of a player as Seneca has been for us, he probably forced a couple of throws these last couple of weeks that he probably shouldn't have made. There's a fine line between being aggressive, competitive and wanting so badly to make something happen to help the team, and having that cross over to being a little too careless with the ball. How do you differentiate between those two?
It's never been much of a problem with him. But the bottom line is you've got to protect the ball. There were probably a couple of poor decisions that he made in the interest of trying to make something happen.
CN: Your offense was clearly riding a momentum high throughout the first several weeks of the season. You even had a streak of seven consecutive games of scoring 30 points or more. How much did that confidence take a hit in the loss at Oklahoma?
Brickey: That took a little bit of our swagger away, no question. They dominated us so thoroughly. They played exceedingly well and we played very poorly. The combination of the two was certainly a little unsettling. I don't think you can lay everything off on that, because we came back the following week and actually played pretty well the first half against Texas.
The week after that we probably had our best offensive game against Missouri, so I don't think you can put it all on that one Oklahoma. But then we came back the following week against Kansas State and didn't play as well. Against Colorado, offensively we did a lot of good things. Unfortunately, the turnover thing hurt us and we couldn't snap out of that. Maybe the cumulative effect of some of that eventually wore us down emotionally and from a confidence standpoint.
CN: Based on how your positions shake out for next year, the future looks to be a bright one for the offense. With the experience this group gained in 2002, could the offense be even better next fall?
Brickey: The experience helps in a lot of ways. This is primarily a junior team that we've got right now. We've only got seven seniors overall that play an appreciable amount, three on offense and four on defense. In that regard, we will have a bunch of guys next year that have played a lot of football.
But there will be some significant question marks as well. We've got to find a tight end. A couple more offensive linemen need to step up and step in. They'll be a year older and wiser, and in some cases they'll be bigger, stronger and more experienced. That should end up being a thing that's improved next year. We've got all the running backs back who played this year, plus one that's being held out this year that could add something come spring practice.
Then you get to the quarterback battle. It will be an interesting thing to see how it plays out. There are some guys there who give us a chance to be productive at that position. I go back to two years ago when Sage Rosenfels left and everybody thought the sky was falling. If I got asked once, I got asked a thousand times about what we'd do at quarterback.
I think we came up with a pretty good answer that time and I'd like to think we will come up with some answers again this time. I don't know that any of those guys will be able to be the kind of player Seneca's been, but I think we'll find a way to get productive play out of that position.
CN: What needs to be done in order to improve the running game?
Brickey: It's a lot of factors. Hopefully we'll be a year older, more experienced, wiser and maybe bigger and stronger up front. Most of that group comes back, including Luke Vander Sanden. Only having him for about one game this year was a pretty good jolt to this year's group. Hopefully he'll be back healthy and ready to go. The same is true at the running back position. They've got to keep getting better. Maybe a young guy that isn't playing right now can come in and give that group some extra juice.
The thing that will be interesting to see next year is how well we're throwing it to try to make both segments effective, as opposed to this year when we were a little top heavy in the pass game.
CN: Over to the defensive side of the ball. Coach Skladany, could you start with some general comments and observations about the regular season?
Skladany: At times we played good football and did some really good things early in the year. Then we kind of went into a bit of a backslide and didn't play as well as we had before.
But throughout some of those big games, we played well at times. I thought we played pretty well at Texas. Kansas State got a lot of points on us off of turnovers, but at times we fought and did some decent things out there. The last game was a disappointment to everyone. I thought we would have come out and played better than we did.
CN: How did the defense grade out in some points of emphasis going into this year?
Skladany: The biggest thing is we had to keep winning football games. Early in the season we did a good job on third down and getting off the field. I think that's an area, along with the red zone, that were two glaring areas that where we weren't as productive. We weren't very good at stopping some people in the red zone. The last few games on third down we had teams in position to get off the field, but we didn't make a play or two. That was an area I want to keep stressing and improve on.
Our run defense, up until the last two or three games, made nice improvement. Then after the Colorado and Connecticut games, I wasn't as excited about that. We let some things slip away a little bit.
CN: What were some factors in the defense's lackluster play in the final few weeks?
Skladany: I think it was a combination of everything. You can't make excuses for things, but the grinding schedule that we had and the away games took a little out of us. We'd had such high expectations like everyone else throughout the season. That's our job to fight through it and we kept fighting and fighting. For one reason or another, we came up short at some things. We'll be OK. They'll have a good attitude.
CN: The defensive line had just one senior in defensive end Beau Coleman and was a young unit overall. How does it look for the future?
Skladany: We have Jordan Carstens back, Nick Leaders and Tim Tebrink. So I think we've got a nucleus there of some returning players that can give us some good, solid play. We're hoping in the future that Shaheed Richardson can give us something. He hurt his ankle and over the last three games he couldn't keep making progress. I hope we can develop some depth with Cephus Johnson, Beau Klaffke and Korey Smith.
Skladany: I thought they were pretty consistent and steady throughout. I'm pleased with their overall play. We need to get a little bit more depth. We've got some nice young players here who I think are going to help us in the future. I think that area played some good football at times. I think this was probably the best playmaking unit we've had here. A couple of those guys already had some experience and really came through in some key games. The emergence of Brandon Brown as a real playmaker was a plus for us.
CN: Go further into the progress of Brown. What enabled him to take that next step in his sophomore year?
Skladany: He's got a knack for playing. He's quick, powerful and very explosive. He's got a feel for playing linebacker. We're expecting some really neat things from him in the next few years.
CN: Is it safe to say that Loyd was the MVP of your defense, or would that distinction go to Carstens?
Skladany: We'll see. Jordan Carstens and he were outstanding week after week. Jeremy was certainly a steady guy up there that made plays every week. He just made some big plays in big games.
CN: JaMaine Billups' move from running back to strong safety instantly lifted the play of your defensive backfield. What are your thoughts on his play?
Skladany: It was a big shot in the arm for us. We got a physical safety back there that could really make tackles and make plays. You saw him really be a difference-maker in a lot of football games out there this year. That was a great addition to the secondary. He added a physicalness to our defense back there. He's a bigger, more physical safety than we've had.
Skladany: I thought they held up pretty well. They saw some of the best receivers in all of college football. It wasn't too often that we got burnt. They held in there, competed and played well throughout the season.
Skladany: Marc was in there and when he did get to play he played well. It was tough with playing all of them in there. They had to split a little bit of time between them, but we just didn't feel we could take JaMaine off the field very often. The other guys kind of fought for the repetitions. But Marc still did some good things for us in there.
CN: Is gaining the proper weight still what's holding Timmons up in his development?
Skladany: We'd always like to see a little bit of extra weight on him. That's a constant battle. He has a hard time gaining that weight, but he wants to play and he will continue to work hard on it.
CN: What are some areas of focus with this defense as you prepare for spring practice in a few months?
Skladany: We're going to try to get back to being better tacklers. We tackled well throughout the season, but the last few weeks we struggled a little bit. We've got to make sure we tackle, execute our defense and get back to really being assignment-sound like everything else. The season wears on your physically and mentally, so we needed a little bit of break to recharge ourselves and get back to executing the way we did at times this year.
CN: In which game did you see your defense play at its best?
Skladany: I thought in the Nebraska and Texas Tech games we played our best, and also in the second half at Iowa. I thought we took it up a couple notches and really played well.