John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Three months ago no one would have thought that West Virginia would travel to Ames looking for their sixth win. The Cyclones are sitting at an unsurprising six wins already but took a circuitous route to get there. Now Iowa State looks for their highest regular season win total in the Rhoads Era on Black Friday.
Stadium: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
Time: 2:30 PM CST
The following seniors will play their final game in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday:
Ben Durbin - DT, Jace Hawley - DB, Aaron Horne - WR, Steele Jantz - QB, A.J. Klein - LB, Jake Knott - LB, Josh Lenz - WR, Jeremy Reeves - DB, Henry Simon - DT, Sam Tautolo - C, Brett Bueker - QB/Holder, Brayden Burris - T, Carter Bykowski - T, Drew Davis - OL, Vince Ewald - TE, Durrell Givens - S, Kurt Hammerschmidt - TE, Ricky Howard - TE, Cleyon Laing - DT, Roosevelt Maggitt - DE, Jake McDonough - DT, Matt Morton - LB, Rony Nelson - DE, Jerome Tiller - WR, Matt Van Dyke - WR, Chris Young - WR
As Paul Rhoads said on Monday, these men have set the foundation for the modern era Cyclones and established a culture none of us saw coming just four years ago when Rhoads took over. These men deserve your attention and your applause as they play their final game at home before moving on to the bowl game and eventually the rest of their lives.
When We Last Left Off...
Sam B. Richardson became the new savior of the Cyclone offense after taking over on the 3rd series in a 51-28 rout of Kansas. Richardson went 23 of 27 for 250 yards and four touchdowns plus another one on the ground. 12 different Iowa State receivers caught the ball but the biggest storyline other than Richardson is 241 yards rushing and 5.7 yards per carry by the Cyclone offense.
West Virginia pulled off whatever chains remained on Tavon Austin and moved him to running back. In doing so Austin ripped off a Big XII record 572 all purpose yards and the Mountaineers still managed to lose 50-49 on a late Landry Jones to Kenny Stills touchdown pass. Austin mentioned after the game that the playbook for him was simple: run left and run right.
Iowa State vs West Virginia: A History
Iowa State and West Virginia have never played, but Paul Rhoads is familiar with beating an overpowering West Virginia team (note: watch that on mute and watch for Rhoads' typical sideline emotion around 2:05).
Interesting fact to this game: Until last week West Virginia had never lost in the history of their program when scoring over 40 points.
A Look at Iowa State's Offense vs West Virginia
No doubt that Sam Richardson's performance last Saturday was the best debut we have seen from a Cyclone quarterback in some time. Even Steele Jantz's performance against Iowa in 2011 was preceded by a mediocre game against UNI and Jared Barnett's relief of Jantz against Texas A&M had its ups and downs. Richardson arguably made one bad decision last Saturday and it was a late pass over the middle that was broken up and should have been six against a more capable defensive back.
Let's not forget though that the running game finally taking hold is what allowed Richardson to get the room to throw like he did. Also factor in probably the best play calling from Courtney Messingham yet and you get a recipe for success. Richardson mostly threw safe to start and only went over the middle of the field a handful of times the entire game. Moving the pocket to get him simpler reads caught Kansas off guard but even West Virginia's sieve of a defense will be able to plan for this now.
Although West Virginia ranks 30th nationally in rushing defense the key to winning this game is going to be running the ball and controlling the pace of play. The run set up the pass significantly last week and in order to keep Richardson looking like the savior of the Cyclones' offense he will need James White, Jeff Woody, and Shontrelle Johnson to look like they did last week. Against a poor tackling team like the Mountaineers the Cyclones need to repeat their game plan from Kansas and get that big hoss Woody running early in the game. Run the ball, set up the play action, and points will follow.
Richardson is the most accurate quarterback we have seen at ISU in some time but let's reserve judgment on his future until we see how he plays after a week of preparation from both him and the opponent. West Virginia gets about as much pressure on the quarterback as Kansas so the throwing lanes will be there. What Richardson will need to watch out for is falling too far back from his previous performance and the mix of looks the Mountaineers will bring from their 3-3-5 set.
A Look at Iowa State's Defense vs West Virginia
The story of the week has been how the Iowa State defense will handle Tavon Austin lining up in West Virginia's backfield. Austin said after last week's game against Oklahoma that his playbook was simple: run left and run right. He's right. His only plays seemed to be inside zone plays to either the left or right side of the formation. The one wrinkle was his compelling need to bounce it outside, and since Oklahoma was caught off guard by the formation, it worked more often than it should have. No doubt that if I picked this up then Rhoads and Wally Burnham did and will play contain in the run game to force Austin to the middle of the field and back towards their help.
All of that won't matter if the defense can't tackle and this has been the worst tackling Cyclone defense since the 2009 defense that featured Kennard Banks. It got even worse once Jake Knott went down for the season. This defense will give up yards no matter if they tackle well or not but the key will be to limit the big plays that Kansas had success with last week. Geno Smith and company have struggled to consistently move down the field this year and have relied on big plays to eat up large chunks of yards at a time. If the Cyclones can force Smith to take 8 or 10 plays a drive, and hold them to field goals in the red zone, it will be a good day.
If Jansen Watson does return to the lineup this week I am far less concerned about Stedman Baily. Watson is not a shutdown corner by any means but does a good enough job staying with his man and stripping away balls late that I feel he can limit Bailey's impact. If the defense has to trot out a combination of Cliff Stokes and little Sam Richardson then the yards and points are going to pile up as the defense won't be able to limit a single weapon at Smith's disposal.
A Look at Iowa State's Special Teams vs West Virginia
Two things are key here: don't kick it to Tavon Austin and get a big game out of Kirby Van Der Kamp. I expect either pooch or squib kick offs to limit Austin's ability to get the ball up field quickly and Van Der Kamp's leg will be important with winds forecasted to be out of the northwest at 17 mph and gusting to 25 mph.
WRNL Lead Pipe Prediction (3-8): Seniors step up in a big way with Josh Lenz and Chris Young both finding the end zone.
50/50 Prediction (4-7): Geno Smith throws two interceptions. If he doesn't, the Cyclones lose.
Reason for Impromptu Dumpster Burning (5-6): We know how this goes.
What We Are Drinking When We Aren't Drinking Natty (AKA Cyclone
Jukebox Beer Pick of the Week)
We are actually drinking Natty this weekend as this is the 4th Annual Deer and Beer Tailgate over in G7. A varied assortment of shitty beers will be on hand this weekend as we use a roulette wheel to determine our drinking fate. Look for the WRNL flag and swing by for a beverage or two.
There isn't much I can say here that hasn't been said by our writers and the media alike all season. Everyone has been looking forward to Riot Bowl I since the schedule was announced and the records of the two teams have had no impact on our enthusiasm for this game.
Both teams are going to eat up yards in this game but the keys are going to come down to who can control the clock, hold on to the ball, and limit explosive plays. Those are all pillars in the Cyclone foundation and this team is playing with house money after getting their sixth win last week. They will be loose, they will be having fun, and most importantly they'll be playing inspired for the departing men who helped turn this program around.
That's a dangerous thing.
Iowa State 41
West Virginia 37
PS - As always, let's see your predictions, and have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
PPS - My brother asked me the last time Iowa State scored 40 points in back to back games. Hold your breath...
Two of Gene Chizik's wins at Iowa State were 40 point outbursts and came at the start of the 2008 season. A 44-17 win over South Dakota State and 48-28 win the next week against Kent State. Prior to that it was a 42-14 win over Texas A&M followed by a 45-17 win over Kansas State in 2005.