Spring kicking off

Emily Arthur

Spring football for the ISU football team started Wednesday, but Tony Yelk still doesn’t want to forget last season.

The Cyclones lost a heartbreaker to Alabama, 14-13, in the Mainstay Independence Bowl to end the year. Yelk’s 47-yard field-goal attempt with 46 seconds left in the game would of given Iowa State the win, but his kick missed the uprights by inches. He also missed field-goal attempts of 25 and 40 yards in the game.

But he still doesn’t want to forget.

“You’ve got to remember it,” Yelk said, “just to learn from it and go on . Your past really shapes who you are. The game is too big to blame it on any one thing, but it’s not an excuse. I take pride in what I do.”

One of the knocks on the kicker – who also handled the punting duties last season – was his consistency, something Yelk said he’ll be working on during spring practices.

“For me, consistency is the biggest thing, that’s not any secret to anyone around here,” Yelk said. “We did some stuff in the offseason to hopefully try to correct it, just being consistent and being reliable so not everybody’s crossing their fingers when I go in there next season.”

ISU head coach Dan McCarney doesn’t seem to be worried about Yelk or about anything at all.

“You talk about the schedule were going to play, you talk about the success we’ve had the last couple years, the group of coaches I have, the football team that’s taking the field today, this is as much fun as I’ve ever had,” McCarney said. “I’m thrilled to be here, and we’re really excited to get started.”

The Cyclones finished last season at 7-5, which included their second-straight bowl appearance. It’s getting back to a bowl game that McCarney said will keep the team hungry throughout the spring season.

“There’s a lot of confidence in this program and rightfully so,” he said. “And yet we’re hungry to improve, we’re hungry to get better, we know the challenges are huge this year from a schedule standpoint, but it’s fun to be at Iowa State right now. These kids know this is a proud program and a real good program that we’re part of now.”

Iowa State returns seven starters from the defense of last season’s team, a fact McCarney is excited about.

“We lost nine starters a year ago this time off the Insight.com Bowl team. [We have] a great nucleus coming back,” he said. “I’m really excited about them and a lot of the backups . Those guys are really quality defensive players.”

The other side of the ball looks just as promising for the Cyclones with Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year Seneca Wallace returning to lead the offense at the quarterback position.

“He ups the performance of everybody around him with the way he practices and the way he plays,” McCarney said of Wallace. “Without a doubt, I think, he’s got a chance to be one of the better players in college football this year. He proved that through 12 games last year, and there’s no doubt in my mind, the way he works, that he’ll be even better this next year.”

That may be hard with the schedule the Cyclones are facing next season. Iowa State will be on the road with games against Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa.

Their schedule also includes a game with Bobby Bowden-led Florida State in the Eddie Robinson Classic in Kansas City, Mo. to start the season.

McCarney said he’ll use the spring practices as a chance to get ready for those games. He may have a little help as well.

Bowden, the legendary coach himself, was in Des Moines Wednesday night for a speaking engagement. McCarney said he was planning on attending although he didn’t mention anything about comparing notes.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get to visit with him a little bit and get an autograph.”