Saturday, September 24, 2005

ISU 'Pathetic' Against Army--Let's Hope It's Not a Cyclone Personality

I was about ready to choke on my nachos and jalapenos last night when Army took a 21-14 halftime lead over Iowa State.

What a horror show it was on ESPN2 by a Cyclone team that hadn’t played since doing a 23-3 number on Iowa nearly two weeks earlier.

This definitely wasn’t the way it was supposed to be for 22nd-ranked Iowa State, which wound up winning, 28-21.

“It was a pathetic performance by Iowa State,” a veteran football-watcher said. “They had Army outweighed by 40 pounds a man.”

To his credit, Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said his team was outplayed and outcoached by the Black Knights in the first half.

Actually, probably even longer than the first half.

Hand it to McCarney, though. He somehow knocked some sense into his players in the more than 3 hours it took to play the game, and they had enough to send their record to 3-0.

But, just like in a 32-21 victory over Division I-AA Illinois State in the opening game of the season, Iowa State wasn’t emotionally or physically ready to play this game.

I wonder if this is going to continue being a problem with Iowa State. I stand on what I said a while back—that there’s no opponent on the schedule the Cyclones can’t beat—but I’m afraid this team is one that could stumble against a Missouri, a Kansas State or a Kansas.

Or all three.

These Black Knights who came damn close to puncturing Iowa State’s dreams, of course, are nothing like the Army teams I grew up watching. Those outfits out of the 1940s had Heisman Trophy winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis [pictured on the Time cover of Nov. 12, 1945 that accompanies this column], and they made America proud.

Not just proud that they were playing football for Army, but that they were representative of everything that was good in those difficult years.

Today’s Army players are young kids who look like they could be playing for Waukee High School. [Oh, I know, I’m probably thinking that way because I’m a hell of a lot older now]. I noticed a couple of the players last night crying when the TV cameras zoomed in on them just as the game finished.

Somehow, I never thought Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard ever cried. If they did, I don’t want anyone to tell me.

But the tears last night showed that gone was the 2005 Black Knights’ hope of being the first Army team to beat a ranked opponent since 1972.

They did well just being able to be in the game with a Big 12 Conference team. Army, an 18-point underdog, has no more business playing in a one-touchdown loss against Iowa State than it has pretending it has a major-college football program.

There are plenty of people at West Point who feel the same way. This was supposed to be a two-game series, but Army decided it didn’t want to send its team to Ames next season. So there will be no rematch.

Too bad. I hate to see a team representing the U.S. Military Academy come across as being too timid to strap on its shoulder pads in Jack Trice Stadium.

During the telecast, Army got plenty of commercials out of ESPN2 that said how good it is to be at West Point. The young men in the ads made us all feel good that they’ll be representing our nation around the world in a few years.

I’m sure the gutty performance the Black Knights turned in during the game turned some TV viewers—maybe even some viewers who began the evening wearing Iowa State T-shirts—into Army fans.

The TV announcers made a big deal of saying that Iowa State’s players regarded the journey to West Point as a “business trip.” They mentioned that the Cyclones didn’t tour the grounds, didn’t experience the history.

I think that was a mistake.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the players on the Cyclone squad. Some will never again get the chance to see everything there is to see at West Point. Touring the campus of the team you’re going to play the next day is rarely done in college football these days.

The last coach I can recall wanting to do that was Earle Bruce of Iowa State, and he hasn’t worked in Ames since 1978.

But that’s just one of the problems with college football.

The TV announcers also talked a lot about Jason Berryman, the thug who was allowed back on the Iowa State roster this season. They thought it was a bad idea to permit him back, and so do I.

I’ve been saying that for weeks.

And Berryman and others like him elsewhere are also among college football’s problems.

Vol. 4, No. 381
Sept. 24, 2005