No surprise: Wallace has Cyclones looking up

Jeremy Gustafson

Last year at this time there were a lot of uncertainties. How would the Cyclones do losing so many starters? Can they go to another bowl game? Who will start at quarterback? How good is Seneca Wallace?

Two of those questions are still hovering over the spring practice field outside of Jack Trice Stadium. The latter two, however, are long since answered.

Wallace is good, 167-of-269 (62.1 percent) passing good. Eleven passing touchdowns good, 185.8 passing yards a game good, 475 rushing yards good, seven rushing touchdowns good, 2519 total offensive yards good.

So yes, he’ll start at quarterback this year.

The only thing that he’ll be lacking this year is the element of surprise.

“I would like if nobody knew who I was because that takes some more of the pressure off of me,” Wallace said. “It wouldn’t matter to me; I’m just gonna go out there and play.”

ISU head coach Dan McCarney sees it a different way.

“I’d much rather have a guy that’s a proven commodity,” said McCarney, who was awarded a two-year contract extension (through the 2006 season) over the weekend. “We know what he’s going to do under a 12-game schedule against some of the best teams in the country versus a guy that’s never taken a snap.”

After receiving the Big 12 Conference offensive newcomer of the year award, it’s safe to say that what Wallace can do has been noted around the league.

And he’s got one year of understanding the ISU offense under his belt.

“Last year Seneca Wallace didn’t know a single play in our whole offense,” said wide receiver Lane Danielsen, who caught 49 of Wallace’s passes in 2001. “This year he knows our whole offense. We’re going to be able to put so much more in this year and we’re so much farther ahead than we were last year at this time.”

And so the pressure begins to mount. The schedule is tough, riddled with national title contenders like Florida State, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas just to name a few. If the Cyclones hope to make it three-straight bowl appearances, Wallace will need his teammates to step up.

“He’s only as good as the supporting cast – we know Seneca can play winning football. But some guys on this team have to prove that right now,” McCarney said.

Not that Wallace minds the hype.

“I play better when I’m under pressure,” he said.

But can he do better than last year? After all he had the third- highest total offensive yard total in Cyclone history.

“You just want to go out there and know every game that you’ve got to be more productive than the last,” Wallace said, shrugging away any doubt. “I’m a senior now and a lot of things change when you reach that level. You want to go out there and play better than you did last year.”

Last year Wallace had All-Big 12 running back Ennis Haywood behind him. This season, the Cyclones are searching among Michael Wagner, Hiawatha Rutland and JaMaine Billups for a starter.

“We’ve got three good running backs back there,” Danielsen said. “We’ve got all the confidence in the world . we’ll have a running game.”

And with Wallace “the play is never done until he’s down,” Danielsen added.

Wallace again shrugs at the thought of having to spark the rushing offense, one that has seen a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last seven seasons, the sixth-longest streak in NCAA history.

“All our backs are great. It wouldn’t matter if each player went for 800 yards on the season,” Wallace said. “It’s not a matter of just one guy going out there and taking the team on his shoulders – any guy can go in and give us good yardage.

“Right now it’s not about me going in and sparking it. If I did have to go out there and make a play to get us going I would do that. I think our running backs can handle that themselves.”

It should be a comfort that Wallace averaged over four yards per rushing attempt, but McCarney advised that this team has more weapons than just Wallace.

“It’s not about just Seneca Wallace. We’ve got a lot of guys that have to step it up now,” McCarney said.

While some may think Wallace will need all the help he can get with the Cyclones tough schedule, he sees it differently.

“I’m not going to say we’re better than we were last year,” Wallace said. “Things are looking real good for us right now; we’re at a point right now where all we can do is go up.”

If that holds true the Cyclones, led by – no surprise -Seneca Wallace, could startle many teams.

2002 ISU Schedule

Aug. 24 vs. Florida State*

Aug. 31 vs. Kansas

Sept. 7 vs. Tenneessee Tech

Sept. 14 at Iowa

Sept. 21 vs. Troy State**

Sept. 28 vs. Nebraska

Oct. 12 vs. Texas Tech***

Oct. 19 at Oklahoma

Oct. 26 at Texas

Nov. 2 vs. Missouri

Nov. 9 at Kansas State

Nov. 16 at Colorado

Nov. 23 vs. Connecticut

* Eddie Robinson Classic Kansas City, Mo.

** Family Weekend

*** Homecoming