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Published Friday, October 6, 2000

Huskers expect to be tested vs. ISU


Last modified at 6:31 a.m. on Friday, October 6, 2000
  

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   By Terry Douglass
The Independent

Nos. 1- and 2-ranked Nebraska and Iowa State will be meeting under much different circumstances this time.

A Big 12 Conference matchup that hasn't had a lot of pizzazz in recent history will carry plenty of weight when the Cornhuskers (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) visit Iowa State (4-0, 1-0) in a 2:36 p.m. game Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. The game will be televised regionally by ABC.

Iowa State is off to its best start in 20 years heads into this weekend's game against Nebraska undefeated for the first time since 1978 -- the last year the Cyclones went to a bowl game. The last time both the Huskers and ISU were undefeated when they played was 1965 when current Nebraska head coach Frank Solich was NU's fullback.

Solich said he thinks this Iowa State team is capable of giving Nebraska its best test so far this season.

"I think they have made great strides with their program," Solich said. "I think they feel confident with this football team. Coach (Dan) McCarney has stated on several occasions that he feels this is the best team that he's had since he's been there.

"Those are pretty strong statements. That would indicate that he feels very good about this football team. We're anxious to see exactly how good we are because it will be a test for us."

McCarney said that its probably the Cyclones who will be tested.

"We've got a major, major challenge this week," McCarney said. "Nebraska is as outstanding as they've ever been."

Solich said that Iowa State has always had some outstanding individuals. But this year, the Cyclones look solid at nearly every position, he said.

"It's not a deal where you turn on the film and say, 'here's a weakness, here's a weakness and there's a weakness, let's exploit it,'" Solich said. "That means that they're a very solid and a very good football team and you plan accordingly.

"I think they have more team speed. I think they have more athletes on the field than what they've had in some years. Of course that generally translates into having better chances to win football games and that's why they're 4-0."

Nebraska has dominated the all-time series against Iowa State, owning a 78-14-2 record and a 7-game winning streak. The last time the Cyclones challenged the Huskers was in 1994 at Ames when Nebraska struggled for a 28-12 win.

Since an unranked Cyclone team shocked a No. 7 Huskers squad 19-10 at Ames in 1992, Nebraska has won by an average score of 52-13. McCarney hasn't come close to knocking off the Huskers in his five years at Iowa State.

"In the time that I've been here, it's been a complete mismatch," McCarney said.

NU I-back Dan Alexander, whose team won last year's meeting in Lincoln 49-14, said he expects things to be much different Saturday.

"This year, they have a good team and it's not going to be a mismatch like it's been in the past," Alexander said. "I think they're probably a lot more confident this year than past years because they've won a lot of games and been successful. We're looking for a tough battle and we're looking for guys who will be ready to play."

Iowa State's offense has looked potent in wins over Ohio (25-15), UNLV (37-22), Iowa (24-14) and Baylor (31-17). The Cyclones are averaging 449 yards of total offense per game to rank 11th nationally.

Senior quarterback Sage Rosenfels leads the ISU attack, having completed 62 of 111 pass attempts (55.9 percent) for 875 yards. Cyclone running back Ennis Haywood is averaging 153.8 yards per game and is coming off a 241-yard performance on 39 carries against Baylor.

"I think they're a lot better team than they have been in the past," Nebraska senior defensive tackle Loran Kaiser said. "Their confidence level is probably through the roof."

Even Iowa State's defense, a weak spot in the recent years, is improved. With 11 players returning this season with starting experience, the Cyclones rank fourth in the Big 12 and 40th in the country in total defense, allowing 323.3 yards per game.

Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch said that from studying film, he thinks the Iowa State defense is much better than the one he faced last season.

"Iowa State's program is on the rise, definitely, and they've proven that over the last few years now," Crouch said. "You can't take that for granted. They're going to play their hearts out on Saturday and they're going to be a better team than they normally are."

As far as Iowa State has come, Nebraska senior split end Matt Davison makes no bones about it -- he expects the Huskers to win, and maybe win big.

"I think we have a lot of confidence against them," Davison said. "It seems like every year we come out, make big plays early and get on top. It seems like it's been like that ever since I've been here. I think we feel like we're going to have a good game against them.

"Mentally, we're really prepared and we feel like we're going to go out and dominate from the start. I think that's how we feel again this year. It's no disrespect to them, it's just that's the way we feel we should get it done."

The Cyclones probably beg to differ. After all, a victory would give Iowa State the quality win they've been looking for to possibly crack the top 25 in the polls as well as the inside track to the program's first winning season since 1989.

"They're going to have a lot of emotion," Alexander said. "They're going to want to defend their record as much as we are and we know that."



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