Archive for September, 2008

A week to reflect and correct

September 23, 2008

They could be 4-0 right now. They aren’t.

The Cyclones are 2-2 after last week’s excrutiating loss at UNLV. Is it where you thought they’d be? Realists probably had ISU, at best, finishing the non-conference season 3-1.

There’s eight games left. Gotta win four to be postseason eligible. Is it possible?

Looking at things right now, it’s hard to see it with how strong the Big 12 is.

ISU is awfully lucky in that it doesn’t play Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, Top 10 teams with a combined record of 10-0. The Cyclones’ South opponents are Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor, all of which are unranked and have a 6-4 mark collectively.

That said, right now this young team is too inconsistent to think it can win more than the two league games it won in Coach Gene Chizik’s first season, let alone snap its 13-game road losing streak.

Wins: Texas A&M (H)

Losses: Kansas (H), Missouri (H), Colorado (A), Oklahoma State (A)

50-50: Baylor (A), Nebraska (H), Kansas State (A)

It’s probably shaping up as a 4-5 win season, looking to next season for a bowl breakthrough.

Of course, we’re only in week five and things can change. Iowa State’s got an extra week to prepare for its Oct. 4 game with KU and the rest of its season.

Can Austen Arnaud continue establishing himself as a budding star at QB?

Will the running game finally get untracked? I’m talking to you A-Rob. You too O-Line. Some running lanes would be nice.

Is leading tackler Michael Bibbs injured or just hurt? Losing the linebacker for any length of time would be a huge blow to ISU’s defense.

And all these penalites!! WTF!! Leonard Johnson’s late hit against Rebels quarterback Omar Clayton was the most egregious, but the Cyclones really need to clean up their act.

This is the week to do it, and prepare themselves for the stretch run. There’s work to be done.


What happens in Vegas…

September 17, 2008

Late-night buffets, sports books and craps tables will be colored cardinal and gold over the next few days.

Thousands of Iowa State fans are taking advantage of their football team’s game at UNLV, turning it into a mini vacation. I can’t say I blame them. I’ve visited Sin City four times in the last 10 years, and loved just about every second of it — even when losing my money, which I’ve done a lot of.

Clone fans, have fun.  

Get some drinks, put $20 in a slot machine, walk The Strip, fight the urge to punch the idiots handing out escort service cards.

Here’s what I’ve learned about America’s playground that may help those traveling this week:

You may think you can walk the length of The Strip. You can’t. Unless you’ve got three hours to kill. It’s a lot longer than you think.

Downtown Vegas is just as cool as The Strip. The casinos are older and there’s not as much shopping or glamour, but if you are looking for a good time it can be had there. The light show is worth the cab fare.

Try the buffet at the MGM Grand. You’ll thank me. Your stomach won’t.

Poker players, visit The Rio’s poker room. The pros you see on ESPN may be hanging around.

Put some money down on a sporting event. It makes watching it that much more fun. The ISU game won’t be on the board. Gaming rules in Nevada prohibit games involving the Rebels to be wagered on.

Tip your wait staff big on the first drink. They’ll remember you if you’re planning to hunker down at a blackjack table.

While we’re on the subject, embrace the absence of open container laws. Walk down the street with a beer at 2 in the afternoon. It feels really cool.

Don’t waste time sleeping unless you really need it. My typical day in Vegas: to bed by 5 a.m., up again at 10 a.m. Shower, eat lunch and you’re ready for a new day. Popping three ibuprofen somwhere between the shower and lunch is probably a good thing.

Guys, the outdoor pool/bar at the Hooters hotel is a must-see. I, of course, was there to eat the chicken wings.

The outdoor show at Treasure Island is pretty neat. There’s pirate ships involved. Nuff said.

Ride the train/shuttle if at all possible. Cabs are pricey and there’s always traffic on Las Vegas Blvd.

Lastly, if you care what time of day it is, wear a watch. Casinos don’t have clocks on the wall.

Press conference news and notes

September 16, 2008

It sure looks like Austen Arnaud is the Cyclones’ top quarterback considering the disparity in playing time last week in the loss to Iowa.

Arnaud was under center for 52 of ISU’s 67 offensive plays. He was in on nine of the 12 series and all but one in the second half.  

Phillip Bates was a non-factor, in large part because of the soggy turf at Kinnick Stadium. Bates was asked Monday about his reduced role. He softly said:

“That’s something you’ll have to ask Coach Chizik. I can’t say anything about it. I really don’t know.”


Chizik was asked earlier about getting Bates on the field more.

“There’s circumstances that dictate what quarterback you might decide to go with more snaps versus the other one. That could easily flip next week… We’re by no means saying Austen’s really pulled away in the quarterback derby. I don’t think that’s happened.”

INJURY UPDATE. Chizik said defensive back Devin McDowell hopes to play this week. McDowell has missed the last two weeks with an undisclosed injury.

The coach wasn’t as forthright about freshman Leonard Johnson, who cracked helmets with Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki late last week. Johnson has played a lot at cornerback is the Cyclones’ top kick returner.  

“I think he’s OK,” said secondary mate Brandon Hunley. “That was a pretty big shot. Hopefully we get his head right and he’ll be ready to roll.”

DON’T LIKE IKE. The families of Cyclone players Jerrod Black, Kelechi Osemele and Alex Alvarez are unharmed following Hurricane Ike’s wrath last weekend on the Texas coast.

Black and Osemele are from Houston. Alvarez’s hometown is League City, Texas, which is even closer to the coast. Bates, a good friend of Black’s, said the redshirt freshman defensive tackle is worry-free.

“He said everything was OK. Everybody evacuated and is safe,” Bates said.

DONT BANK ON IT.  If injured defensive back Kennard Banks returns this season he’ll have to do it with his broken arm protected pretty heavily.

“We’ll continue to watch and see how the next few weeks unfold,” Chizik said. “We’d love to say we could get him back. Is that realistic? I’m not really sure.”

“If it were 85 percent of the guys on our team I’d say they are done. This one is different.”

“He won’t just have sweat bands on,” Chizik said. “He’ll have to have it padded up.”

Banks, a junior college transfer, was injured in the season-opening win over South Dakota State. ISU could apply for a medical hardship to regain his year of eligibility.

Local kids doing great

September 8, 2008

Ex-Linn-Mar standout Grant Mahoney leads all Big 12 Conference kickers in scoring through two games. He’s made five of six field goals and all 11 extra-point attempts.

Just as important have been his kickoffs, which ISU Coach Gene Chizik talked about today at his press conference.

“Grant has been really good. If I’d have said I want a freshman kicker to come in and here’s what I want him to do the first two games, I couldn’t draw it up any better,” Chizik said. “His kickoffs, his hang time, where he kicking… He’s giving our special teams a chance to go down and cover. I’m very pleased.”

Of course, Mahoney’s never performed outside of Jack Trice Stadium. That’ll come this week.

“Will he be rattled by (a road) environment? I don’t know. We’ll see Saturday. He’s a pretty solid guy.”

Cedar Rapids native and former Iowa City Regina standout Michael O’Connell also is making a splash in his first chance for playing time. In only two tries, O’Connell has eclipsed ISU’s total punt return yardage from a year ago (33) and nearly broke his only attempt last week for a score.

Opening week starter Devin McDowell didn’t play last week because of injury. Does he get his job back? O’Connell did nothing to lose the job, but who knows?

And Ben Lamaak has simply been a rock on the offensive line. 14 straight starts. He’s going to be a four-year starter barring injury. Can you believe the guy played QB at Kennedy and came here as a two-star tight end prospect?