Football Insider: Boise State

In a special postseason edition of his column for the 2002 season, Cyclone Nation football insider Ben Bruns assesses the Iowa State football Humanitarian Bowl game against Boise State.

Ben Bruns was a standout center at Iowa State and 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: Following such a disappointing loss to Connecticut to close the season, how eager are the Cyclones to get back on the field again?

BRUNS: I'm not sure a loss like that at the end of a long season gets you raring to go. It would be very difficult to feel excited about playing again within a week. However, after some time that feeling fades and you just want to fight for redemption.

CN: Mac said after the UCONN defeat that he thought the team was tired and after a 14-week season they needed to get away from football for a while. As a former player yourself, can you address just how much of a grind a season of that length can be?

BRUNS: Well, these guys have already played more games than we ever did before a bowl, so I can't really speak to where they are. I do know that in the course of my college football career, I experienced almost every typical injury you think about short of concussions and spinal damage. Most of these guys have had similar experiences and you always have injuries that you nag you though the course of a season.

CN: Do you think that had a lot of bearing on the lackluster effort against UCONN?

BRUNS: I'm sure it did, though I tend to think the mental aspect was the real issue. It is tough to keep focused that long on something that can be very monotonous if things aren't going right. Football really consumes your life, and if things aren't going your way, your life really isn't much fun at all.

CN: When you played at ISU, you had a couple of losses your senior year against Texas A&M and Kansas State that created some doubt about whether or not the program had truly turned the corner. Surely, this year's seniors are hearing the same talk following the UCONN loss. However, they've had to listen to it now for a month instead of a week. What kind of impact can that sort of talk from your own fans have on the morale of the program?

BRUNS: It's tough, and you want to just tune it all out. Unfortunately, this wasn't a case of a team having more talent than you did. It was something different. You can't blame people for being disappointed…it just wasn't inspiring. I think everyone wants to be inspired. Were people disappointed after FSU? Well, yes and no. The disappointment was that we didn't knock off someone no one expected us to. On the other hand, there was inspiration and hope for a season to come. UCONN unfortunately was neither.

CN: It seemed to me that Seneca Wallace was really pressing the final few weeks of the season due to the collapse of the running game. What can the coaches do to get him back to where he was in the first half of the season?

BRUNS: I think he needs to relax and enjoy the game. They all do.

CN: Prior to the Colorado game, some ISU players pointed out that avoiding a trip to Boise was their motivation for the rest of the season at that time. Now, the Cyclones find themselves headed there. Is it realistic that they can put aside those feelings and treat this bowl trip as a reward? Is this trip a reward for that matter?

BRUNS: I'm not so sure it is a reward, but it is fitting. However, I think it is ridiculous for them, and all the Cyclone fans, to not go and enjoy themselves. I certainly will. Everything I hear about Boise is that it is a great place to visit.

CN: Is there some deserving irony that this Iowa State team gets one more shot at redemption to win what essentially is a road game after winning only game away from Jack Trice Stadium all season long?

BRUNS: It is a road trip. It is against a good and hungry team.

CN: How important is this game towards the image of the program? Would a 7-7 record be considered a step back in your mind? How much a difference is there between 8-6 and 7-7?

BRUNS: I think the record is a moot point. Iowa is 11-1. OSU is 12-0. I think it is obvious that some conferences are different than others. I want to see a football team that acts like they want to kick someone's #$% because they have pride in themselves and their school. Record means nothing to me at this point. I want to be inspired again. If that means they go out there and do absolutely everything in their power to win and come up short, so be it. Football really is all about life and how you deal with adversity. I would like to be proud of them as my friends and good people of character than to have them give no effort at all and win handily.

CN: I think any talk the Cyclones won't respect the game ended with the mini-controversy about Mac and Bruce Van De Velde not attending the pre-Humanitarian Bowl press conference. I think the outcry that spurred among ISU fans should make the program aware of just how important this game is to the fans. Do you agree or disagree with that?

BRUNS: I think it is a big game because they have challenged us. Their coach and media have called the Cyclones out. Will we have enough brass to respond? Well, that is the key to the game.

CN: Speaking of the fans, Iowa State returned half of its ticket allotment and the alumni association, as well as we here at CN, were forced to cancel our charter flights to the game because of a lack of interest. Do you blame Cyclone fans for not spending money to follow the team to Boise?

BRUNS: I think some of the travel packages have been blown out of proportion. One of the above packages was not a good deal. No one wants to pay a lot to get a little, and I think it was wrong of people to say we can't even fill a plane to go support the team when the package isn't great. If you were to look at the number of people we have at the game, versus cost and location, the Cyclones would be well represented in the Big 12 Conference.

CN: ISU is not the only Big 12 school to have difficulty generating ticket interest for a bowl game. Nebraska (Independence Bowl) and Texas Tech (Tangerine Bowl) have also struggled to sell tickets. Do you think interest in the bowl system is waning? As a player, do you prefer bowls or a playoff and why?

BRUNS: I think the bowls could evolve into a playoff system. However, I think the BCS does a good job for what it was designed for. The nation's two undefeated teams are playing in the title game, no matter how badly one will destroy the other. I think the bowl concept is tremendous.

CN: Speaking of the Big 12, how about predicting how you think the league will do in bowl games? For the record, it's Oklahoma-Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Clemson-Texas Tech in the Tangerine Bowl, Southern Miss-Oklahoma State in the Houston Bowl, Nebraska-Mississippi in the Independence Bowl, Kansas State-Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, Colorado-Wisconsin in the Alamo Bowl, and Texas-LSU in the Cotton Bowl. I think the league will go 6-2. What do you think?

BRUNS: Well, I already know the outcome of one of those. I must say I was appalled at the ridiculous spectacle Texas Tech put on. I had always had respect for their sportsmanship. However, after the Tangerine Bowl they put a black eye on our conference's dignity. OK, off my soapbox: I say 7-1. Quite frankly, some of the match-ups are ridiculous.

CN: How beneficial can the extra practice sessions the NCAA allows in preparation for a bowl game be in terms of player development?

BRUNS: It is very good. It is also important to get the young players accustomed to going to bowls.

CN: Boise State ranks among the nation's elite in several offensive categories and the Broncos run the ball very well. Do you think ISU's defense is up to the challenge?

BRUNS: Yep.

CN: Here's my blunt assessment of this game: the Cyclones simply have better athletes than Boise State. If they come to play, they'll win the game. If they pout, they'll get blown out. Do you agree or disagree?

BRUNS: I agree completely. They need to be able to respond to adversity. BSU is a good enough team that no matter how well the Cyclones play, they will have to overcome adversity to win.

CN: What are your keys to victory in the Humanitarian Bowl?

BRUNS: Attitude, attitude and commitment.


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