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WRNL Interrogates: Rece Davis

The College Football Final host stops by to talk Iowa State, what they need to do to win, and the Capital One Mascot Challenge.

The Daily Emerald

Hi Rece, let's talk about Iowa State and some Capital One Mascot Challenge.

Much like the Cyclones on the field, I think the fans need to step up their game in support of Cy.  Cy was the 2008 winner of the Capital One Mascot Challenge, but right now he's off to an 0-2 start and is trailing Bennie Beaver of Oregon State in this week's match up.  You need a little Iowa State and Big 12 pride to help Cy get on his way.

The most important thing about this is it's a recognition from Capital One that the mascots are part of the pageantry and passion that surrounds college football and it's a great recognition of the work that those students do to be part of the overall college football experience.  The winner of the mascot of the year will receive a $20,000 scholarship given to the school to go towards their mascot program.  Also every participant, all 16 of them, will receive at least a $5,000 scholarship towards their mascot program.

Iowa State has had a tough start, a bit disappointing, not only for Cy but for the football team.  The fans can make it better by trying to win this thing for Cy.  Go to Capitalonemascots.com.  You can click Vote Now and earn a point at a time, or go to Facebook or Twitter and do that as well.

What I'd really like to see is Iowa State fans get clever and have some unique entries using #Mascot on Facebook and Twitter, and if you win that instead of getting one point at a time you get Cy 50 or 100 points at a time by answering those challenges.  Whether they be a selfie or something else.  If you're going to turn things around it starts with you fans, and it starts with each fan doing what he can, and the first thing you can do is support Cy.

Iowa State is pretty big into those internet challenges, so we'll have to throw down and try to win this thing.  Speaking of fan support, it was pretty good on Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium, did you guys get the chance to see the game?

Absolutely, I was watching it closely.  Most notably because I'm calling Kansas State and Auburn in a couple of weeks.  First of all, the game was interesting.  It was a close game and real fun to watch.  On Saturday we have nine monitors in there.  One on the floor, which is a pretty good set and is generally on our game so I can see the cut ins and do them in real time so I can see what's rolling out of the control room.

Then Mark, Lou, and I select two games we want to see on the bigger monitors.  ESPN can step up a little more for this, but we've got a bank of six moderately sized monitors there, so we have nine games going.  I was focused a lot in the early window on the Kansas State and Iowa State game and I thought Iowa State played really well.  I was really impressed with two things: one, how they kept the game from getting away from them at the beginning, when it looked like Kansas State might take a sledgehammer to their face.  Then how they came back and answered and really seemed to be in control of that game for an extended period of time.

Now the next step is learning how to win a game like that.  You'd love to sit here and be the fancy football guy and I'd be telling you something I learned from Lou, Mark, Jesse Palmer, or David Pollack when trying to evaluate it and saying something like, "If this guy used this technique on this drive or whatever."  To me, Saturday was more of an intangible thing with Iowa State and somebody figuring out a way to make the play to win the game; instead of sitting there wondering deep in their sub conscious if the roof was going to cave in, and it did.  Once they get over that hump I think they've shown some real promising signs.  Mark Mangino is a very good offensive coordinator; I think Paul [Rhoads] is a good leader and a good coach.  I think they've shown some signs, they just have to figure out how to finish the deal when they have the opportunity.

With the intangibles I almost feel we're watching the learning curve with these guys, and watching them grow up.

You need success, I mean this is a cliché but the reason clichés become clichés is because there's a truth to them - they're fundamental.  Success can breed success, and Iowa State hasn't had a lot of that.  They had a lot of things go wrong.

I called the Texas game last year where they had an opportunity and something went wrong.  I know that will set people off back home, but things have gone wrong.  When you start worrying, or sometimes it's the opposite and you start pressing to make sure things don't go wrong, and then inevitably it does.

I think what Iowa State needs is to find a way to win one of these games.  Saturday represents a great opportunity against an Iowa team that I think is going to be a good team but they haven't looked great so far.  Certainly there is an opportunity and a place [Kinnick Stadium] where they've had a little success over the years.  Won the last time they were there.  I think that's what this program needs more than anything else, to have a little bit of success because the schedule is going to get dicey real fast after the Iowa game.  I think Saturday is a really, really important game for the Cyclones in terms of the direction of their season.

Was last year's Texas game your first trip to Ames, and what'd you think of the town and campus?

It was my first trip to Iowa State.  It was an exciting football game and we were treated great, it's a really neat and cool college campus.  What I remember is Jesse, David, and I went out, and ESPN was doing Tailgate Week that week, so we went out and enjoyed some of the Iowa State hospitality and got some good Midwest beef that had been cooked up on the grill.  It was a really fun night, entertaining game, and exciting, controversial game.  It was a good atmosphere for Thursday night.

It was a great atmosphere.  The tailgating atmosphere has always been great, but to get fans in the stands like in the Texas game, and this past weekend, has taken a lot of work.  It's great to see that noticed nationally.

You'd like to see Iowa State have success.  No matter how loyal fans are it's an investment.  I think this is the case in Ames, but people drive a long way to games.  They sacrifice things whether it is a kid's soccer game or sitting around and relaxing on the couch.  You get in the car, you fight traffic, you leave the game and fight traffic again, and it's an entire day.  I know that people want fans to be there through thick and thin, and I do to because it makes it exciting and creates a great atmosphere, but I'm understanding as well and I think it's why there's such a pressure on coaches to win quickly because there are so many different entertainment options out there for fans, and if they're going to make the sacrifice for a day long commitment they want to be entertained with the reason that they're going.

It's nice to go back to the alma mater and see friends, but that might be a once or twice a year thing.  If you want someone to come to every game you have to give them a successful product on the field.  Maybe back in another time when there was only a game or two on TV and there weren't so many organized activities for our kids maybe you could go ahead and do it more easily through thick and thin.  If you don't have a great product, don't play a great schedule, or the stadium might not be up to snuff, whatever it might be; then I think it's pretty easy for people to say, "Let's stay home and watch the game on TV, and I can watch the Oklahoma game too."  Or they could record the game and take their kids to soccer and then come back and watch it.  There has to be something that draws them to want to be part of the experience for the entire day.

You mentioned all the monitors and great TVs you have on the College Football Final set -

We need better TVs, and bigger TVs, I'm calling out management for that now.  I'm kidding, they treat us very well.

What's it like watching football week in, and week out, with Lou Holtz and Mark May, and all the knowledge they bring?

It's great.  I think the thing that has made our show successful is that we have chemistry and we genuinely like each other.  Usually once or twice an offseason we spend time together at some event and make a point to do so.  I feel like those two guys are two of my closest friends.  Lou has been with us for 10 years now, and Mark and I have been working college football Saturdays together for 15 years.  I don't have a better friend in the world than Mark May.  It feels like home, it never feels like I'm going to a job.  We can banter back and forth about games, positions, and strategies.  I think what I'm most grateful for is that I didn't have the level of football experience, obviously, that those two guys.  My talent ran out in high school, although my high school teammates would tell you it ran out long before that.

The thing that Mark and Lou have allowed me to do, is that they respect me, my leadership in terms of being the host of the show, but at the same time they respect me from a football standpoint.  Don't get me wrong, I know where the boundaries are.  We can have a difference of opinion on whether Stanford should have punted from the 29 yard line, although I don't think any of us thought they should have done that.  We can have a difference of opinion over that and they respect it.  I'm not going to go in and tell Mark May that the left tackle should have been lower in his set and used his hands in a different way.  I'm not going to tell Lou Holtz that I don't agree with his decision on the finer points of defending four verticals in the secondary.  I'm not going to do that.  I think I've stayed within those bounds, and in turn they respect me.  If I say that I think one guy is better than that guy, or this decision was a bad one.  I think that's what made our show, our relationship, and our chemistry successful.  We all like each other and we enjoy those 15 hour days watching ball together.  All three of us really like the game, we care about the good of the game, and we enjoy being together and sharing it with America.

Before I turn you loose, any last minute advice for Cyclone fans and getting those votes for Cy in the Capital One Mascot Challenge?

Go to CapitalOneMascot.com, do it on Facebook, do it on Twitter, do like they do in Chicago, vote early and vote often.  Try to get creative and win some of those weekly challenges to boost Cy up because you never know what type of impact the karma of Cy will have on the team as a whole.