New assignments tested Word

Zac Reicks

Matt Word had a great year for the ISU football team in 2001.

He was named co-defensive MVP in the Independence Bowl, an honorable mention All-Big 12 and had an interception return for a touchdown in the win against Kansas.

This year, things haven’t gone quite as well.

While Word has started most of the season at middle linebacker for the Cyclones, his level of play has dropped off from its high standard of last season.

Part of that can be attributed to tougher competition like Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, but Word says it’s his new assignments that are giving him trouble.

“I have played more on the backside this year than anything, while last year I was expected to rely more on my speed.” Word said. “Now I have to concentrate on the cutbacks, which lets the lineman get on me and makes it easier for me to get blocked.”

Playing the cutback lanes means Word usually has to wait on the running back to make his move instead of being the aggressor. This can be difficult when playing backs the caliber of Oklahoma’s Quentin Griffin and Colorado’s Chris Brown.

For Word, the higher the caliber the team, the better he plays.

“The games against Kansas State, Colorado and Texas Tech I played my best,” Word said. “I love the big games. Getting to step up to the challenge by playing in this conference is really fun.”

Colorado head coach Gary Barnett knew how good Word and his fellow linebackers Jeremy Loyd and Brandon Brown were, giving them special attention in his scouting report before the game.

“Their three linebackers compare to Oklahoma’s three,” Barnett said. “They are just as active and just as strong; really, the strength of their team.”

And while Iowa State hasn’t had the same success this year as Oklahoma, they are still going to a bowl game, just like the Sooners.

Word has a great chance to play a bowl game in his home state of Florida, which hosts the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando.

“Every bowl game would be great, but I would love to play in front of my family and friends,” Word said. “The only problem would be finding enough tickets for all of them.”

It would also be a chance for Word to show some of the Atlantic Coast Conference schools that didn’t recruit him just what they were missing out on.

“Playing for Iowa State, I get to represent the best conference in the nation, so there’s no hard feelings,” Word said.

The senior also has had the chance to play four years of Division I football, something that he doesn’t take for granted.

“I have had some great memories, and thank Iowa State for giving me a chance,” Word said. “My parents are coming up this weekend, and I just want to have fun playing my last home game with my fellow seniors.”