Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Austen Arnaud is back for another season as Iowa State’s starting quarterback. It’s a little different for him this season as he’s operating new coordinator Tom Herman’s hurry-up attack.
The Cyclones will be facing traditional rival Iowa in the Cy-Hawk game Saturday afternoon in Ames. We caught up with Arnaud earlier this week to find out about the Cyclones’ new offense, the rivalry with Iowa and growing up in a household where his father was a former Iowa State player.
How did you feel you did in your first game against North Dakota State last week?
Austen Arnaud: We did all right as a team. With the jitters and what not, I guess a little of it was to be expected. I felt like I played decent and the team did, too.
I know you guys didn’t have headset communications between the press box and the sideline for much of the game. And still, you didn’t have an offensive penalty. How do you explain that -- especially for a first game?
AA: It was funny to see Coach Herman trying to get us the information from his cell phone. But when it came down to it, we’ve gotten a lot better with our signals as we’ve gotten more experienced in the offense. We made some pretty good adjustments, too.
Obviously, trying to get the offense down has resulted in some growing pains. Where would you say your team’s offensive proficiency is now compared to when you first started working with it?
AA: To compare it from now to last spring is the difference between night and day. We know everything schematically and we’re trying to iron things out to get the full effect of what it can all do for our offense. We see what other teams do when they run the spread and we’re trying to do it. We’re just trying to put our spin on things.
One thing that has marked your career has been your adaptability. You’re now working with your third offensive coordinator. How do you explain your success?
AA: It was tough to do, but the concepts don’t change that much. The verbiage has changed a little bit with each offense and in what we do. But this offense is similar to the offenses I’ve been in, but also a little different. We’re trying to move the ball not only fast, but also smart.
Your father, John, was a storied defensive back for Iowa State from 1980-82. Did he raise you with a strong appreciation for the Cyclones’ rivalry with Iowa?
AA: It was always huge for us. It was a big game for him. When he played it, it was tough for him. I don’t know if they ever beat Iowa. But I know he always told me how much he hated them and how much it made his blood boil playing them over the years.
Growing up in Ames and your friends knowing your dad attended Iowa State, did any of your friends ever admit to rooting for Iowa?
AA: [Laughing] I know there were some Iowa fans around here, but most of the people who lived in Ames were Iowa State fans. I had a ninth-grade coach who is a huge Iowa fan. We used to always give him grief.
A lot of people from around the country probably don’t realize how competitive this rivalry has been in recent years. Why is it that way?
AA: Everything gets thrown out the window. It’s a rivalry game and you can throw the point spread and the rankings out the window in this game. I know half the guys on the Iowa team and a lot of my teammates know other guys, too. We take it personal. And they do, too. Everybody says it’s just the next game, but it’s a huge game for the state.
Iowa blocked a couple of kicks late to beat Northern Iowa last week. Did you get a chance to watch it?
AA: We had Saturday off and I watched it, but I wasn’t being a cheerleader. I didn’t care who won. But it makes it more exciting that we both are coming in undefeated.
What is it that makes playing against the Iowa defense that Norm Parker coordinates so difficult?
AA: This is my fourth year playing against those guys since I’ve been in the program and you see the same thing. The kids are smart and they know what they are supposed to do in his defense. They are very good at what they do and always want to be one of the best.
Because of everything, will Saturday’s game be a little more important for you than some of the others?
AA: It’s huge for me because I’ve been watching this game forever. It’s just great to have it at home. We’ve got a great level of focus and we’ll be ready to play. And in the same sense, I’m sure they will be treating it in the same way.