Secondary UNItes to stop Panthers

Zac Reicks

Winning the turnover battle is one of the most important aspects in controlling a football game. Forcing turnovers and getting extra possessions can go a long way in deciding whether or not a team will win.

The ISU Cyclones opened their 2001 season with their young defense recording six interceptions propelling them to a 45-0 lambasting of intrastate rival Northern Iowa. Seven is the most interceptions Iowa State has had in a game. They had seven picks in 1976 against Utah.

Head coach Dan McCarney used a scheme within the ISU secondary that allowed many new and veteran faces to be on the field working with each other the entire evening.

“The good thing about the defense’s performance was that those six or seven guys who intercepted the ball are almost all underclassmen,” McCarney said. “They will build on that, and it helps their confidence knowing they can make plays.”

With newcomers such as Harold Clewis, Johnny Smith and Ellis Hobbs all making interceptions as well as locking down UNI’s wideouts, sophomore safety Marc Timmons can breathe easier knowing that his young counterparts are going to do their jobs.

“I think a lot of those guys are capable of making big plays,” Timmons said. “We are a lot more athletic this year, and what you saw tonight is just a glimpse of the future.”

If the Cyclones’ future is winning the turnover battle 7-1 every game, people are going to be in for a rude awakening when Iowa State is in town.

With the ISU secondary’s tight coverage, UNI redshirt-freshman quarterback Tom Petrie completed almost as many passes to the Cyclone defense as he did to his Panther receiving corps.

The Cyclone defense practically shut down Panther preseason All-American Jake Soliday the entire game, allowing a 42-yard completion late in the game to pad his stats giving him just two catches for 50 yards.

Coupled with Petrie’s 8-for-27, 99 yards and five interception performance, it was clear that the Panthers’ offense was outmatched the entire game.

Sophomore cornerback Harold Clewis played well all evening, culminating the night’s events with an interception in his first quarter of collegiate action.

“I devote all the picks we had to the front seven, because they were pressuring the quarterback and making him make bad reads all night,” Clewis said. “We had a pretty good game as you can see by the stats, but what else can you say, we practice all week to do our job, and we accomplished that tonight.”

Despite Saturday’s success, McCarney realizes that there will be some definite growing pains to accompany the success that the young defenders are relishing in.

“Now and then we got out of position,” McCarney said. “Everything is a learning experience when you are out there, and you’ve never played before. We had a lot of kids get that chance tonight.”

The savvy Timmons also agrees that there are times when the new guys will make mistakes, but the important thing is not to do it again.

“Usually people that haven’t ever played can do two things; they can go down in the tank and be nervous or rise to the occasion. I was glad to see those guys rise to the occasion,” Timmons said.

Regardless of all Saturday’s success, the Cyclones know they will face a formidable opponent when the Iowa Hawkeyes roll into Ames next week.

The Hawkeyes are flying high after two blowout wins over Kent State and Miami of Ohio.

With the Iowa quarterback duties being shared by the experienced Kyle McCann and the explosive Brad Banks, the secondary will have their hands full.

However, they can rest a little easier knowing they already face one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, Seneca Wallace.

“I know how it is to prepare for the number 15 back there for ISU,” Timmons said. “It’s hell.”