ISU has that winning feeling

Jeff Stell

The ISU football team clinched its first winning season in 11 years, and became postseason eligible in the process, with a 39-20 win over Missouri Saturday night at Jack Trice Stadium.

The Cyclones, now 6-2 on the season, gave ISU Head Football Coach Dan McCarney his first winning season in his six years at the helm. The sixth win also qualified Iowa State for postseason play as the NCAA requires a team to have at least six wins to play in a bowl game.

The game was played in front of a festive crowd of 46,599 and afterwards the ISU student section celebrated by storming the field and trying to tear down the goalposts.

“I’m really proud of my football team and coaching staff and really happy for the Iowa State fans,” McCarney said. “I know we got some tough games ahead but it feels good to be 6-2 right now. It’s been real tough and long road to get here. But tough times don’t last, tough people do, and you got a lot of tough people in this program.”

The Cyclone team features 23 seniors that helped build the foundation towards this year’s success.

“I feel so good for this team right now,” ISU senior wide receiver Chris Anthony said. “A winning season is something we have been looking for, for several years, and now we have finally accomplished it. There are so many people that have put their lives into turning this thing around and it just feels great to give something back.”

Ennis Haywood powered the Cyclone effort with 214 yards on 23 carries, which figured out to a stellar 9.3 yards per carry. Haywood scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 4 and 14 yards.

Haywood had been mired in a slump, rushing for 97 yards total in losses to Texas A&M and Nebraska in the past three weeks. McCarney was pleased with the way the offensive line opened holes for Haywood to run through.

“It was a big night for our offensive line,” McCarney said. “We really challenged them to come back after we couldn’t even get first downs running the football last week. We wanted to come out and try and control the line of scrimmage and I think our kids did a good job of that.”

Last weekend, the Cyclones dug themselves into an early hole against Texas A&M and things didn’t start well again Saturday night.

Missouri got off to a fast start as linebacker Sean Ain intercepted a Sage Rosenfels pass and the Tigers scored five plays later on a 10-yard run by quarterback Darius Outlaw.

The Cyclones responded by scoring 26 unanswered points in the next 19 minutes. Haywood scored twice while Rosenfels scored on a short run and J.J. Moses bolted 34 yards for a score on a reverse play.

“They were very focused all week long,” McCarney said. “Our kids answered. When they made plays, we made plays. They made some big plays, we made more big plays.”

The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter with the Cyclones leading 26-14. The Tigers had driven all the way to the ISU 26-yard line when freshman defensive back Marc Timmons intercepted an Outlaw pass and raced 78 yards for a touchdown.

“The interception by Marc Timmons was huge — just huge,” McCarney said. “They were moving the ball at the time and had some momentum going and those are the kind of plays you got to make if you’re going to turn a program around.”

Outlaw admitted after the game that he was just trying to throw the ball away and the play turned into a disaster.

“I was trying to throw the ball in the dirt,” Outlaw said. “Then I heard a lot of crowd noise and the next thing I knew [Timmons] was in the end zone.”

The Cyclones racked up 495 yards of total offense but gave up 427. Outlaw led the Tiger rushing with 107 yards on 18 carries and passed for 171 yards. Zack Abron added 86 yards on 15 carries while Zain Gilmore totaled 67 yards on 14 carries.

“We had some adversity and made some mistakes but our kids hung in there and really did a lot of good things,” McCarney said. “We obviously bent a lot on defense but we came up with a lot of big plays. Outlaw has a lot of athleticism and he hurt us a lot with his feet, but we were just trying to give him some different looks whether it be zone or man.”

Rosenfels finished 10-of-17 passing for 156 yards, with most of his yardage coming on completions to Anthony. Anthony grabbed five passes for 110 yards.

The Cyclones play again Saturday at Kansas State. McCarney knows practice will be a lot more positive this week than last when the Cyclones were coming off the whipping by Texas A&M.

“It’s going to be nice to be able to go out on the field for the first time knowing that we’re going to have a winning season and let’s add to it,” McCarney said.

“It won’t be hard to get their attention but it will sure be a lot easier to grading tape and meeting with them than it was last week,” he said.