Monday, November 01, 2004

McCarney: Talk of 'Weak' Big 12 North Is Getting Old

Dan McCarney agrees.

“Yes, it does get kind of old,” Iowa State’s football coach said today.

McCarney was referring to persistent talk that the North Division of the Big 12 football race is weak.

Although McCarney’s Cyclones have only a 2-3 conference record and stand 4-4 overall, they can claim at least a share of the Big 12 North lead by beating Nebraska in a 1 p.m. game Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

Not a day – would you believe hour? – goes by without some self-appointed know-it-all poking fun at the North standings.

Nebraska leads with a 3-2 record, followed by Iowa State and Missouri at 2-3 and Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State at 1-4.

Nebraska is the only team with an overall record above .500. In the Big 12 South, however, five of the six teams—Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech—are above .500.

McCarney said he understands some of the talk about the records in the Big 12 North, “but we’ve got our own world we live in, getting our team ready to play and focusing on our next opponent,” he said.

I have respect for the coaches and players and staffs of the teams in the North. It’s just human nature to blow up a little bit when you hear [talk about how weak the teams are]. I’m just speaking for myself, not the other coaches.”


McCarney said he certainly won’t be making any apologies if the Cyclones should happen to win the Big 12 North title.

“No team in the Big 12 has to make any apologies for anything,” he said. “The neat thing about the North division is that all six teams are in the race.”

A game at Kansas State on Nov. 20 and a home game against Missouri on Nov. 27 follow the Nebraska game on Iowa State’s schedule. It’s certainly feasible for the Cyclones to win the Big 12 North title and go into the conference playoff game against , say, unbeaten Oklahoma with a 6-5 overall record.

That brought up another question for McCarney on this morning’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference.

A reporter projected that the Big 12 North representative would be 6-6 after a loss to the Sooners.

“I guess the league would have to get an NCAA waiver [so the 6-6 team could get a bowl bid],” the writer suggested.

“You threw a lot at me,” McCarney answered. “I’m an Iowa graduate. You got me stumped with that. I’d love to be in that position. One of my dreams is playing in the [Big 12] title game.”

Asked if the playoff game should count as part of the regular season, McCarney said, “I haven’t thought about it. I just hope that, one of these days, the Cyclones will be in the mix and have a chance to do something like that.”

The reporter then said to McCarney, “It was a typical sportswriter’s question. I apologize, Dan.”

Said McCarney: “I get confused easily.”


This e-mail was sent to sportswriters by Iowa State athletic media relations director Tom Kroeschell:

Iowa State offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Barney Cotton has respectfully declined to do interviews this week as the coaching staff prepares to play Nebraska Saturday in Ames. He thanks all of you for respecting his decision.”

Cotton is in his first season on McCarney’s staff after being on Nebraska’s staff.

Asked today if it would be a case of the Cyclones trying to “win one for Barney” because he was fired at Nebraska, McCarney said, “No, that doesn’t have anything to do with it.

“Barney was in charge of our scouting report on Nebraska yesterday. It wasn’t mentioned that he was let go or fired by Nebraska. I don’t sense it as a ‘win one for Barney’ thing. I’m glad I’ve got Barney on my staff, and this is ‘trying to win one for the Cyclones.’”


Got $60 you don’t know what to do with? Well, there are still reserved seats left at that price for the Iowa State-Nebraska game, which won’t be televised. For $35, you can get hillside seating at Jack Trice Stadium.

It’s hard to believe there are still Iowa State-Nebraska tickets available the week of the game. But that illustrates there are even limits to what Husker fans will spend their money on these days.


In three weeks, Kyle Orton has gone from being the favorite for the Heisman Trophy to just another journeyman quarterback.

Orton, the former Southeast Polk High School player, will start for the Boilermakers in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium—providing he’s healthy.

Coach Joe Tiller told the Lafayette Journal and Courier that Orton will be in the lineup against the Hawkeyes, even though he was benched in last week’s 13-10 loss at Northwestern.

“If he’s healthy and feels like he can throw the ball, and we see it in him about midweek on, then Kyle Orton will be the starter,” Tiller said.

Orton suffered a hip pointer Oct. 23 against Michigan, then hurt the hip again in the first half against Northwestern.

Orton predicts he’ll be ready Saturday.

“I’m just trying to get healthy and play through some pain,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to be hurting the team by being in there if I can’t go. But also I’m just trying to play through some pain and help my team win.”

Purdue has gone from a team with a 5-0 record to one that’s 5-3 after losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern. During the losing streak, Orton has averaged only 197 yards a game passing, with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. He also has lost three critical fumbles.

“That’s all on me,” Orton said. “I make a nice play to get the first down, then don’t secure the football. That’s freshman stuff. I’ve got to get over that.”


Another future Iowa opponent that’s slipped down the drain is Minnesota, which has gone from being unbeaten and ranked No. 13 nationally to 6-3.

A few weeks ago, the Gophers envisioned going to the Rose Bowl. Now it’s predicted they’re headed to the bowl game no team wants to go to—the Motor City in Detroit.

It’s gotten so bad at Minneapolis that Glen Mason, the former Iowa State assistant who coaches the Gophers, “offered a blunt self-evaluation,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“I need to do a better job,” Mason said. “I am not getting the job done. Coach Mason is not getting the job done.”

The paper said Mason’s comments “were meant to take the heat off his team in the wake of an embarrassing 30-21 loss to Indiana that left the Gophers’ bowl game prospects in peril and brought another round of frustration to an already maddening season.”

Regardless of the purpose of Mason’s comments, you can make sure his bosses will remember what he said when it comes to renewing his contract.

Vol. 4, No. 273
Nov. 1, 2004