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Football

BLUM: Reliving the 2002 Nightmare in Norman

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There is a point in all of our lives where our sports fandom transitions from child-like enthusiasm to the cynicism of an old-timer. Iowa State fans are especially aware of this cruel line of demarcation. As a kid, everything about your team is great. Wins and losses matter but by and large the big picture is hard to understand. I grew up in one of the worst eras of Cyclone football but I still thought Blaise Bryant, James McMillion, Bob Utter and Matt Straight were legends. That is what kids do.

In 2000, I was a somewhat impressionable 16 year old, beginning to get a grasp of Iowa State football’s role in the world. Then Dan McCarney started winning and naivety re-took over. Maybe the Cyclones can really compete for a Big 12 title! Iowa State won nine games in 2000, they recruited Seneca Wallace, won seven more games in 2001 and appeared set up for a potentially magical run in 2002. After a thrilling loss to 3rd ranked Florida State (Seneca was in), Iowa State reeled off six straight wins to become the talk of college football. I was a senior in high school and Cyclone Football was my life. If I had a choice between going on a date with the Homecoming queen at Waukee High School or watching Seneca Wallace; Seneca would have won 11 times out of 10.

As Iowa State rolled into Oklahoma on October 19, 2002, I was so jacked up I couldn’t sleep for a few days. This was the most anticipated game of my life.

But as you know, disaster struck. I was robbed of innocence by a man in a visor.

Until now, I have not attempted to re-watch that abomination of a game. I have tried to hide the memory in the recesses of the mind along with Hampton and the Blarge.

In honor of OU’s trip to Ames twelve years later, the time has come to face my fears and locate the game on YouTube. The following is my account of the recent viewing experience. It is not for the meek of heart, but we all have to grow up sometime and face the pain.  

0:00…The game opens with a thrilling montage on ABC of Seneca Wallace and Dan McCarney. The golden pipes of Brad Nessler narrate, "Iowa State has moved to their loftiest national ranking ever. At the season’s midway point, the Heisman trophy is pointing towards Ames, Seneca Wallace has been nothing short of sensational."  A graphic appears, Iowa State is 13th in the nation (9th in the AP Poll)! Oklahoma is 2nd. This was the game of the week. Iowa State was in the top 10 in one poll and had the Heisman front-runner. Amazing.

2:10…We now head to the broadcast booth with ABC’s "A" team at the time, Nessler and Bob Griese. Griese: "Seneca Wallace is the top play-maker in all of college football." And there is THE RUN vs. Texas Tech, just feed me the IV full of hype ABC.

3:15…ABC highlights Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman, who was the closest thing to what a linebacker should look like. He would go on to win pretty much every linebacker award in college football. He had a great rookie year with the Detroit Lions, but would flame out after four years in the NFL, ultimately playing for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL, whatever that is.

3:36…We head down to NFL Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann who has a fired up Dan McCarney on the sideline, "I want these kids to embrace this opportunity. Enjoy the moment." Standing next to McCarney during his interview is Offensive Line Coach Marty Fine looking like a marshmallow in short sleeves. Not a confidence inspiring moment.  

4:28…Mike Wagner has a decent return out to the thirty yard line. The weather looks miserable, Seneca enters the game. Nessler, "Everybody is talking about this guy. I’m talking MTV to every magazine."  MTV must have talked about Seneca in-between episodes of TRL.  At the time the #1 hit in America was Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland, "Dilemma." EVEN WHEN I’M WITH MY BOO, I’M CRAZY OVER YOU!  The #1 movie at the time was the terrifying The Ring.

5:19…It is really loud in Norman, Wagner goes backwards on the first play. Oklahoma appears to have about 14 defenders.

5:26...The Iowa State O-Line is highlighted. Cale Stubbe makes an appearance, forgot about that guy.

5:34..The Iowa State skill guys feature Wagner, Lane Danielsen and my man Senator Jack Whitver! Whitver has a, "They told me to look angry in my picture even though I’m a former walk-on from Grinnell," look going.

6:30..Iowa State goes 3 & out as Seneca misses two throws. Griese: "That isn’t all bad, at least you didn’t turn it over." Oh Bob, you don’t even know.

7:15..Tony Yelk back to punt and all hell breaks loose. Somebody neglected to block OU’s Derrick Strait. He blocks the punt. The ball is literally spinning in the end-zone as Iowa State’s Anthony Forrest tries to kick it….he whiffs. Oklahoma dives on it for a touchdown. One minute in and OU leads 7-0.

8:22..A cutaway of a McCarney clapping like a mad-man. And then Stoops with that famous grin of his. I hate that grin.

10:20...Nessler, "Iowa State’s schedule is murderer’s row from here on out." Thanks for the warning Brad.  

11:20…Whitver is interfered with, Iowa State has their initial first down. Clearly the only way to cover Whitver is to interfere with him. Fun fact: Whitver started his career as a defensive back but moved to offense after his freshman year.

13:10….Iowa State forced to punt. Yelk shanks it. A 21 yard punt. Not a great start for Mr. Yelk.

14:22…The OU offense trots on the field led by QB Nate Hybl?….yeah, I don’t remember him either.

15:29…The Cyclone secondary is highlighted: Atif Austin, Marc Timmons, JaMaine Billups, Ellis Hobbs. Griese: "These guys are like smurfs"…thanks Bob.

16:20…Iowa State forces a 4th and inches from midfield on OU’s first drive and of course they convert.

17:13…A cut in from John Saunders in the ABC headquarters discussing 4th ranked Ohio State leading Wisconsin 7-0. The Buckeyes would end up winning the national title thanks to Maurice Clarett and their QB…Craig Krenzel.

18:00…The Cyclone defense looks solid, Billups and LB Brandon Brown flying around, OU has to punt. And they down it inside the two yard line.  

19:30…College Football on ABC is brought to you by, TOSITOS SCOOPS! Man…I loved those things, one of the 21st century’s great inventions. "Hey boss I have an idea, let’s make our chip look and function like a scoop, therefore increasing the viscosity of the dip contents on the chip and making America fatter."  

21:00…First mention of Seneca’s small hands and wet balls. Footballs that is. This will become a theme as Seneca sails another pass. Wallace 1-5 for 3 yards through three drives.

24:30…The Cyclone defense forces another fourth and short from the 45. John Skladany’s group very athletic with Matt Word and Jordan Carstens leading the way. OU converts on 4th down.

27:00…Quentin Griffin breaks a tackle at the line of scrimmage and hedge-hoggs his way for a 15 yard TD. Swann says: "He looked like a pebble over a lake," Ok…Lynn. 14-0 Sooners with five minutes left in first quarter.

30:50…Seneca takes a deep shot for Lance Young, he under throws him by a yard and the OU safety breaks it up. Could have been a touchdown. Instead Iowa State goes 3 & out…again. 12 plays, 16 yards in the game for the Cyclones.

 33:00….Interview with Bob Stoops about Nate Hybl. I’ve always wondered where Stoops got his southern accent from considering he grew up in Ohio and went to Iowa. But he is a dead-ringer for Coach Taylor in the Friday Night Lights show.

34:02…Iowa State gets a sack from Tyson Smith! One of the more underrated Dowling Catholic Maroons. The defense is playing pretty well, not the mismatch I recall.  

34:50..Todd Miller with a short return on the punt. Todd was always a good dude, he is now the boys basketball coach at Des Moines Christian. The more you know.

36:50…Seneca sacked, the offense is a nightmare.  Yelk with a short punt, OU starts in Iowa State territory. First quarter ends, OU 14, Iowa State 0. If not for the blocked punt, the game is pretty even.

43:00...On 3rd and 10, Hybl throws an absolute dime to beat Iowa State’s Harold Clewis down to the 15. That was an unreal throw. Two plays later, Griffin is in the end-zone. It is starting to get away. 21-0 OU.

44:40...The band at OU apparently knows one damn song.

45:30...Iowa State has seven yards of offense. The weather is getting worse. Ponchos everywhere.

47:00… Seneca throws an interception on a pass that was 15 yards over his receiver. Here come the shakes. This is not good.

49:30...Nessler mentions Quincy Carter is the current starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys. There is a blast from the past, a previous version of Geno Smith if you will.

51:50...OU fumbles, the ball sits on the turf for a few seconds and OU recovers. Just one of those days.

54:40...Cutaway of John Skladany, who looks like a miserable wet rag. That mustache has seen better days.  OU has another 4th and inches inside the five….and they convert, of course.  Two plays later, the Sooners are in the end-zone. 28-0 OU. This was a bad idea.

59:20...On the first play of Iowa State’s next series, Seneca throws a duck towards Whitver who is pummeled, the ball pops up and it is picked by OU’s Derrick Strait. OU fumbles on the return, but yes, they recover at the Iowa State 20. This sucks.

1:03:30...OU back into the end-zone…just turn it off already. 35-0 OU.

1:06:00...Griese: "This is not fun if you are wearing a white jersey." Thanks again, Bob.

1:07:40…Wallace drops the ball and it rockets back 20 yards before Wagner dives on it for a 20 yard loss. Iowa State now has negative yardage in the half. I’m not going to make it through this.

1:09:30…OU fumbles on the punt return, it hops around forever before a young Nik Moser gets on it inside the one yard line! (The Ft. Dodge native Moser was one of Iowa State’s better defenders in the last fifteen years. Just really solid.)

1:09:45…1st and goal. Griese: "That’s the break McCarney is looking for." May take a bit more down 35-0, but thanks for that, Bob.

1:11:10…Iowa State tries an option on 2nd and goal at the one and loses four yards. This is disgusting.

1:12:40… 4th and goal, Wallace throws a slant to Whitver and it is almost picked. Nessler: "This has not been a Heisman half for Wallace." You can almost see the Heisman disintegrating on national TV. Sad, very sad.

Wallace’s stats: 1-12, 0 yards, 2 INT’s.  🙁

Total yards: OU 225, Iowa State 4.

1:17:00...Stoops mercifully runs out the clock in the first half with that silly visor on his head even though it is pouring rain.

I am mercifully ending this experiment. I’ve had enough.

 The game would end 49-3. Iowa State would go on to lose six of their final seven games and my Cyclone fandom took a brutal shot of reality. It’s a step that happens to everyone, a part of growing up.

The other lesson here is sometimes it is best to leave things in the past. I think I’m going to go listen to some Avril Lavigne’s, "Complicated" and try to cope with what I’ve just witnessed. Life’s like this.

Welcome to life as a Cyclone football fan. Thanks again, Bob.

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