Despite early casualties, Cyclones show promise

Joe Randleman

Entering Saturday’s showdown against No. 15 Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium, the Iowa State football team hasn’t been anything like its normal self. And that’s a good thing.

When last season’s 3-8 campaign came to a close, the Cyclones were ranked among the nation’s worst teams in several categories.

Listed among these negative categories were rushing offense (81st), passing defense (95th), total defense (86th) and scoring defense (85th).

Through three games this year, the Cyclones (3-0) are ranked in the top 10 in every one of those categories.

They are first in rushing offense (354 yards per game), fourth in passing defense (68.5 points), sixth in total defense (189 yards per game allowed) and seventh in scoring defense (5.7 points per game allowed).

ISU head coach Dan McCarney said there’s no question his team has improved immensely from last season.

“We’re more physical on both sides of the line of scrimmage,” McCarney said. “We’re much better defensively, and we’ve got a lot more guys that can run the football.”

Among the Cyclone leaders on offense are tailback Darren Davis (185 rushing yards per game), quarterback Sage Rosenfels (122.3 total yards per game), tailback Ennis Haywood (72 rushing yards per game) and flanker Damien Groce (four receptions for 119 yards).

Defensively, ISU has been paced by linebacker Eric Weiford (21 tackles), defensive end Robert Brannon (19 tackles) and defensive tackle James Reed (18 tackles, six for losses).

Though ISU has attained a significant amount of success thus far, it hasn’t come without a steep price.

Senior defensive back Jamarcus Powers was lost for the season versus the Hawkeyes with an ankle injury.

Ryan Harklau was lost for at least eight weeks with a foot injury suffered against the Hawks and center Ben Bruns will be out four to six weeks with a knee injury he received last week at UNLV.

ISU will miss dearly the presence of these players against the Wildcats.

There is no doubt Kansas State is quite a step up from Indiana State, Iowa and UNLV, so ISU’s performance against the Wildcats will determine just how far they’ve come.

McCarney acknowledges the Cyclones will have to bring their “A game” in order to compete with the Wildcats.

“There’s no question we’ve really got to step it up this week,” McCarney said. “We’ve improved each week ,and it’s got to happen this week for us to have a chance.”