Iowa State prepared for season’s first test

Jeff Stell

After two weeks of watching most college football teams in action, the ISU football team is more than happy to be taking the field Saturday night hosting intrastate rival Northern Iowa.

The Panthers are one of many teams that have a game under their belt, after a 34-14 win over Wayne State (Mich.) Aug. 30. The Cyclones were supposed to play at Hawaii Saturday but the game was canceled months ago due to budget problems, leaving the squad restless for a game.

“It’s been hard watching all of those teams play,” ISU defensive end Kevin DeRonde said. “We’re just chomping at the bit to get out there, we need a game. We’ve been practicing so long that we need to get out there and hit somebody else.”

The Cyclones start the season looking to build on the momentum of a 9-3 finish and the school’s first-ever bowl game win last season. The Cyclones enter this season on a three-game winning streak with the headliner being a 37-29 victory over Pittsburgh in the Bowl.

“It’s game week and it feels like it,” said ISU head coach Dan McCarney. “It’s much later than normal, there’s teams already playing, but I think we’re on schedule and doing a good job preparing.”

The Panthers are a Division 1AA school but McCarney is fully aware of their winning tradition, including a pair of wins over the Cyclones in the 1990s.

“We have tremendous respect for Northern Iowa,” McCarney said. “When you look at the last 12 years, they’ve won between seven to 12 games, which is a marvelous record.”

DeRonde agrees that the Panthers need to be taken seriously.

“We’re looking at this as a Big 12 game,” DeRonde said. “They’re a good team and they’re coming here to win. They have a big offensive line; one guy is over 300 pounds, and that’s what we’ll see in the Big 12.”

One major area where the Cyclones are sparkling is team health, as the team is at full strength.

“As of today, all players on the two-deep are healthy,” McCarney said. “We’ve come through a lot of work and a lot of scrimmages and practices and we’re as healthy as we could be at this stage. The health of this team makes us feel good.”

The mission for the Cyclones during the off-season was to replace the loss of 13 starters, including special teams. Saturday will be the first test for four starters including redshirt freshman Paul Jarrett, who beat out senior Willie Judd to start at noise guard.

Another newcomer that will see his first action is quarterback Seneca Wallace. Wallace transfers in from Sacramento Community College where he was a All-American.

“We’ll have . 16 kids for sure [who] are going to hit the field for the first time Saturday, including four starters,” McCarney said. “Depending on rotation and how the game goes and the heat and those kind of things, we could have as many as 20-25. That’s always exciting, not really knowing what they’re going to do.”