Sunday, September 11, 2005

This Could Be ISU's Best Team; It's Not End of the World for Iowa

Ames, Ia.—Iowa State’s 23-3 victory over Iowa was not a fluke and, as I look at the rest of the Cyclones’ schedule, there is no opponent on it that they can’t beat.

Indeed, this could very well turn out to be the very best team the university has ever had.

The Cyclones are ranked No. 24 in today's AP poll. It's the first time they've been ranked since October, 2002. Iowa fell 14 places to No. 22 in the poll. In the coaches' poll, Iowa is No. 21 and Iowa State is among the teams receiving votes. The vote total would put the Cyclones at No. 32.

I realize that there have been a few decent coaches since Iowa State started playing football competitively in 1892—Earle Bruce, Johnny Majors, Clay Stapleton, Clyde Williams and even Pop Warner—but Dan McCarney’s team this season could be very special.

With Big 12 South teams Texas and Oklahoma not on the 2005 schedule, there’s no opponent that Iowa State can’t handle -- if [and "if" is a big, big word] it plays the way it did against Iowa. However, just to show that my coffee at Bible class this morning wasn’t spiked with something, I certainly am not going to say Dan McCarney’s team will run the table against Army and what amounts to a rather soft eight-game conference schedule.

We all saw the sorry effort Iowa State turned in Sept. 3 against Illinois State in a 32-21 victory. If that happens at Missouri and Kansas, the Clones are going to lose.

Meanwhile, there are potential problems everywhere—certainly at Nebraska on Oct. 1, at Missouri on Oct. 15, at Texas A&M on Oct. 29 and against Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium on Nov. 5.

McCarney, who has done a marvelous job of building a program at a place that had one of the worst football inferiority complexes in the nation before he showed up, is in his 11th season and obviously knows that there are challenges at every turn.

However, I wish him well in a season that has a chance to turn into something outstanding. He’s worked long and hard to get this program where it is now, and I hope he and his players are rewarded with a record that includes double-digit victories, a Big 12 playoff game against probably Texas and a New Year’s Day bowl game.


This is not the end of the world for Kirk Ferentz and his Iowa team.

The Hawkeyes were clearly the inferior team Saturday, but Ferentz has had a way in recent years of bringing his teams back very well.

The Hawkeyes that fans see in November will be clearly better than the team that was embarrassed at Ames.

I know plenty of people were saying during and after Saturday’s game that Ferentz was outcoached by McCarney.

But I’m not buying it.

I mean, are you going to tell me that Ferentz didn’t want to beat Iowa State? That he didn’t want his players to perform well? That he didn’t have what he thought was a thorough game plan?

Ferentz and his assistants have coached against, and beaten, such teams as Michigan, Ohio State, Florida and LSU in recent seasons. It’s an insult to say they went 120 miles away and got out-coached in their own state.

Remember, no one’s coaching stock is any higher these days nationally than Ferentz’s. He’s not a fist-shaker, a screamer and a guy who grabs players by the face-guard on the sideline, but this man does know how to coach.

He’ll be back, and so will Drew Tate, his quarterback. Tate’s head will clear after putting it in a place where it didn’t belong Saturday—on an opposing player after he tried to make a tackle. He’s got plenty of good football ahead in 2005.

Just like Iowa State, there are some dangerous road stops ahead for Iowa. Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin have trouble written all over them. But everyone knew that going in. Nothing has changed.

Don’t sell your season tickets yet.


Memo to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany:

You can come out from under that pickup truck now.

The sun came up this morning, and I’m betting it will come up tomorrow.

Just because the three best teams in your league—Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan—lost Saturday, there’s no reason to declare volleyball as your premier autumn sport.


It’s worth the trip to Ames on a Saturday afternoon in the fall just to stop by Jon Fleming’s tailgate tent north of the stadium.

Fleming makes the best bloody mary anywhere, with or without the pickle.

Well, I guess he should know something about it.

“I’ve been doing this tailgate for about 20 years,” he said.

The bloody mary one guy had inside the tent tasted so good that he had a second, then washed it down with a “Red and White” beer straight from Jamaica.

“Best beer anywhere,” Fleming said.

When ol’ Jon says something, I believe him.

I even believed him when he said he tried to kick a Hawkeye fan out of his tent and the guy said, “Do you want to fight?”

And, oh, by the way, Fleming felt a lot better late in the day than he did early.

“I think we’re dead,” he said early. “We’ll get beat in the trenches.”

The “we”, of course, was Iowa State, which was in definite control of the football trenches all day Saturday.


I hear that Iowa State hopes to have a new athletic director named by Nov. 1.

“I can’t believe Bobby Elliott won’t be in the mix,” a guy told me. “The only negative I hear is that people are concerned about his administrative skills. What do you think?”

Well, here’s what I think. Elliott, who now is the defensive coordinator at Kansas State and is a former assistant coach at Iowa and Iowa State, grew up in a home where there was plenty of athletic administration at his fingertips.

Bobby’s dad is Bump Elliott, the longtime and now-retired athletic director at Iowa.

“I thought Bobby would inherit the head football coaching job at Kansas State from Bill Snyder,” I said.

“I hear Bobby and Bill don’t get along all that well now,” the guy told me.


It was good to see John Carlson in the press box Saturday.

He’s a class act, and always writes outstanding stuff for the local paper.

However, a few of the newsside copy editors must have been on their smoke break when it came time to put the headline on Carlson’s Page One story.

“CYCLONES SAVOR HAWKS’ DEFEAT’ was about as silly as it gets.

When you write about the Cyclones, you’re writing about the football team, not the fans.

A much better headline would have been,

Some copy editor owes Carlson an apology.

I don’t think Ira Lacher is working weekends again on the 4th floor, is he?

At least I hope not.


I also didn’t much care for “IT’S A RED STATE” on the front of the sports section.

Talk about “Red” when it comes to football in this part of the nation and you’re talking Nebraska “Big Red.”

Iowa State’s colors are cardinal-and-gold.

Not red.

And this certainly is not a "Red" state.

A much better headline would have been, “CYCLONE SHOCKER!”


I asked a man who is sometimes close to the scene if he thought Dan McCarney might have come close to being named Barry Alvarez’s successor as Wisconsin’s football coach, effective in 2006.

“There’s a rumor going around town that McCarney went to the president’s office and said, “Fire Bruce Van De Velde or I’m going to Wisconsin.”

I don’t believe that.

I can’t see McCarney making such a demand of Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy, and I don’t think he was considered for the Wisconsin job.

I think Badger defensive coordinator Bret Bielema [a former Iowa player and assistant coach] opened the eyes of everyone—certainly outgoing Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez—with the job he did last season. Whether he turns into the head coach the Badgers hope remains to be seen.

I hope McCarney stays at Iowa State until he decides he no longer wants to be a football coach. The place needs him.


I hear that former Iowa State basketball player Jake Sullivan is being considered for the commentator job on Cyclone telecasts in the upcoming season. Gary Thompson is determined to stay retired.


I also hear that Tim Floyd, the former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls basketball coach who now is at Southern California, is still unhappy with the ugly way Iowa State handled the dismissal of his close friend Larry Eustachy as the basketball coach.

In the end, that was likely a major reason Van De Velde has been told to take his act elsewhere.


Although Wayne Morgan has done better as Iowa State's basketball coach than a number of people predicted, some aren't sure of the future.

"The jury is out on Morgan," I was told while talking to people who are often in the know at the university.

"Well, he's proving that he can recruit, isn't he?" I said.

"Yes, but some people aren't sure about his coaching on the bench during games," a guy commented.


People can spend their money any way they want, but it sure seemed strange to see two guys from Florida Citrus Sports of Orlando--sponsors of the Champs Bowl on Dec. 27 and the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2 [you Iowa fans remember that one, don't you?]--sitting next to me in the press box during the Iowa State-Iowa game.

Not many decisions on bowl matchups are going to be made in early-September.


Heard on one of the radio call-in shows after the Iowa State-Iowa game:

“I’m sure glad Iowa State wasn’t looking ahead to Army.”

[The Cyclones’ next game is Sept. 23 at West Point].

Vol. 4, No. 374
Sept. 11, 2005