Still Much to be Gained

Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney and a few select players met with the local media Friday afternoon shortly before resuming preparation for the Dec. 31st Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. Here is a sampling of their comments.

McCarney's opening remarks:

"It's been a real productive December for our football team and program. Today is our eighth practice, we'll take our ninth tomorrow and 10th on Sunday. That will give the kids three days off and then we'll bring them back Christmas night and leave the next morning for Boise."

"Those eight days off really were good for this football team. They came back energized, refreshed and real focused. I'm really proud of the way they've practiced. The weather could not have been better. It's helped us a lot."

"Everyone should be available other than Luke Vander Sanden. We had hoped weeks ago that he could have been back for the bowl game. He definitely is showing great progress, but he won't play in the bowl game. He'll be ready to go for our winter workouts and out-of-season workouts when we come back in January."

"Our special teams captain will be Adam Benike. I'm really proud of him. He's a walk on in the program that came all the way to first-team All-Big 12 as a kicker. He's done a great job for us all season long."

"We had nearly a dozen Academic All-Big 12 student-athletes, which is the highest the school has ever had. We had two Academic All-Americans in Jordan Carstens and Jack Whitver. There were only eight teams in America that had two Academic All-Americans and Iowa State's one of them."

On story of he and Bruce Van De Velde skipping initial press conference in Boise:

"The no-show for the press conference, I want to address. I've been on the go recruiting and out of town. First of all it's nonsense, inaccurate journalism. It was ridiculous for it to even be written. It's just a poor job by the columnist out in Boise to even say anything about it. He had no idea. He didn't report or talk to anyone. He just pulled it out of the air.

"It's really disappointing and upsetting. I'm out of town this whole month and get back in here to read some of the happy horsecrap that's written. There was never any invitation, knowledge or press conference. I talked to Gary Beck, got the invitation, he invited me to their bowl game and I said we're honored to come out there. The next thing I said was, ‘do I need to be there this week for anything at all?' He said, ‘absolutely not, there's no function here for you and we look forward to having you when you come out with your team.'

"We sent our advance team out there with Don Knock and Frank Randall to check out our practice facilities, hotels and meeting rooms to make sure we're all set. The day before they go out on Sunday, they found out we were coming, rapidly threw some people together and said they should have a press conference because there were some guys coming out."

"I would have gone out there for anything had he asked me to. How do you no-show to something you're not invited to? There never was anything. Then I come back and listen to all this crap that has been written and talked about. There never was a press conference that I was invited to."

On Boise State overall:

"Boise State's a great football team and is ranked 15th and 18th in the country. They lead the nation in scoring and total offense. You can count on a few fingers the amount of 11-1 football teams in America. They took two bowl-qualified football teams in Hawaii and Fresno State and blew them out. It wasn't even a game. They put up 67 points on Fresno State."

"I think they've won 25 of their last 26 games on the blue turf at home. It will be a home game all the way or Boise State. They're well coached, fundamental, tough and score points all over the place. It's really going to be a challenge for us."

"But we're excited about going and have had great preparation. I've run the practices very much like spring football, which means you roll everyone through, get lots of work and reps, get a good look at your young kids and get your older kids ready to win a football game."

On what team has really focused on in bowl practices:

"The first thing we did when we started practices three weekends ago, we didn't know who our opponent would be or where we were going, so all we tried to do was get back to the basics, coach fundamentals and get lots of reps. We worked ones-ones, twos-twos, threes-threes and fours-fours. That means you get a great look at your best players going against each other, and then some real good work with your younger kids."

On Boise State's offense: "They can beat you either way. There is a misconception that they throw it all over, because they have great numbers throwing the football. But when you have a running back rush for over 1,500 yards, it means you can also run it. They also have a very physical offensive line. They average over 500 yards per game, with over 200 yards rushing and 300 yards passing. It's a great, balanced attack." "They don't mess around. They don't spend a lot of time in the huddle, they break out of it fast, get lined up and come at you fast. In the last two or three games, we counted over 30 different motions to their offense. So you've got to be sound and get lined up. They do it year round and we only get a couple weeks to prepare for it."

On what that offense could compare to:

"They're not exactly like anyone we've faced. They're almost exactly like Arizona State from what I understand, because that staff was hired by Gene Smith. Dan Hawkins stayed behind. He was the assistant head coach, tight end coach and special teams coach on the old staff. He's maintained and sustained what they were doing before. Both offenses are putting up a lot of points. It's a real impressive system they have."

On Iowa State's regular season:

"We had a real good year. We would have liked to have finished it better in the last game, but we had a real good year. We beat three bowl teams for the first time in the history of Iowa State and are going to our third bowl game in row. We beat Iowa and Nebraska in the same season for the first time since 1907. We spent eight weeks in the top 25 and one week in the top 10."

"We've done a lot of great things. It was a real good season. So we're really happy to be going to this game. I'm sure some fans, based on the way we started and where we were in the middle of the season, would like to be going to an upper echelon bowl. We're ecstatic to be going to be a bowl game and will do everything we can to win this game."

On environment of Humanitarian Bowl and Boise:

"It sounds to me a lot like Shreveport, in that the bowl game is the number one thing in that town. It's important. When you get to some of those bigger cities sometimes, not so fast, it isn't always one of the biggest things that happens. But in Boise, Shreveport and some of those other bowl sites, everybody talks about it, they're tied to it and it means a lot to them year-round."

On going to this bowl game:

"I'd go to Alcatraz to play a bowl game as long as it was going to a bowl game and not staying home and seeing everyone on television. We're thrilled to be going here to face a conference champion, a team in the top 15 and a team on their home field. It's a huge challenge. I can think of a lot of teams around here at Iowa State that would have given anything in their means to play a game like this."

On what win in this game could mean:

"That eighth win is real big. We could finish one win ahead of a year ago. We could finish with a bowl championship, which we didn't a year ago. We could continue to add to our tradition. We've won 23 games over the last three seasons facing three of the toughest schedules in this place. We'd like to get that number 24, because that's the most wins in any three seasons ever at this place."

On any alterations to team's participation in off-field festivities:

"Those things will remain the same. Even though we lost last year, everybody realizes we played real good football in that game against Alabama. We're 2-for-2 as far as playing good football and 1-for-2 as far as winning the game. I'm not changing up much as far as our schedule goes. It helps when you have two model schedules from the last two years."

"We set it that first year and I had a lot to do with it, then we've just made some minor adjustments the last two years. There is a lot of fun things involved and some great things for the kids to do. It's a great reward for them. But we are going there to win a football game."

On what Seneca Wallace's approach has been to bowl practices:

"He's really practiced well and is anxious to play. From what I've seen in these first seven practices, he's practiced as good as he has all year. I think the layoff, time away, the rest for his mind and body—he has kind of come back and led the great practices. He has a lot of football yet to be played, but this is the last time he'll put on an Iowa State uniform."

On importance of not turning the ball over against Boise State:

"We didn't talk about (turnovers) a lot. Nine of our games we were just outstanding and one of the top 15 teams in the country. Then against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Colorado and Connecticut we turned it over too much. We went from one of the top two teams in the league in turnover margin to seventh. That really hurt."

"We've got to get back to those nine games where we really took care of the football and got a lot more forced fumbles. We still finished ahead of our forced turnovers from a year ago, but those four games in turnovers really killed us."

On what Oklahoma exposed of ISU in October:

"That was the first team that did a real good job of getting after us and forcing turnovers and forcing bad plays. Anytime you see that and you've got that model and blueprint when you're watching tape, well then let it go and here's what we need to do. We expect to see a lot of torpedoes coming at us on the 31st."

Zach Butler on tempo of team's practices:

"It's excellent so far. We've had physical practices, which is what we needed. We came back focused. It's kind of been like the two-a-days atmosphere, where we've gone to work every day. I think this is the best we've practiced in a long time. We've really re-focused on what our goals are, which is to go out and win a game against a ranked team on the road. It's a big challenge for us."

"That week off was perfect. We came back focused and ready to go. We were upset over the UConn thing and that gave us a little extra step coming back. We're all ready to go and get this thing turned back around. We want to finish this thing on a high note."

Jeremy Loyd on facing balanced offense:

"It's going to make our job a lot more difficult. It's all about good pass drops to help those DBs out when they pass, and fitting in our gaps when they run. I'd say our job is a lot more difficult with the offense they run."

Jordan Carstens on motions to Boise State's offense:

"They shift a lot of their formations. They'll come out with a tight end lined up as a fullback, then line him into a tight end position. Then they'll shift tight ends to the other side as a wide receiver. They're always keeping us on our toes, so it's going to be a good challenge for our defense."

Carstens on how Broncos are so explosive:

"It's just a real balanced attack. I don't think there's really one thing that they can really focus on. A lot of teams have a real powerful running back and they've got that. A lot of teams have a real good quarterback and they've got that. They're the number one offense in the nation right now and we're just going to have to go in there and play a good all-around defensive game."

"I think they really wear down their opponents. In the first drive of a game, they'll have a 15-play drive and then come out and do the same thing. What they do is stay on the field well, keep their offense out there and try to wear out their opponents. They try to keep the other team's offense off the field by playing well offensively."

Bob Montgomery scouting Boise State's defense:

"I've heard a lot about their defense from our coaches. Being ranked that high in the country, you've got to have a good offense and defense. They've got a real good defensive line and then one of their linebackers is exceptional. They're tough guys. They're a lot of teams that we've already played this season, because they're so tough."

Montgomery of role turnover margin could play in this game:

"Since Coach Mac got here, the goal was turnovers and being in the top percentage in turnover margin. That's really what wins and loses ballgames. If you don't give the ball over more than you take the ball, you're going to win. Against Boise State, we want to keep the ball as long as we can just so their offense can't be on the field."

Seneca Wallace on bad end to season and turnover's role in that:

"When things were going bad, they're always going to think it was the quarterback's fault and what not. But we just weren't playing well at all as a team. Things were not going our way. It's no reflection on me, the head coach or anything. Things weren't going our way and we didn't finish strong, but now we've got the chance to go out there and play again."

"We knew all along that if we don't turn the ball over and make big plays that we'd be a good offense. We just didn't do that towards the end of the season."

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