2017 Game IX: #14 Iowa State (6-2, 4-1) vs. West Virginia (5-3, 3-2)
Date: Saturday, November 4th, 2017
Time: 2:30 P.M. CST
Location: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Line: WVU -2.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
Riot Brothers WVU SB Nation Website – Smoking Musket
That was quite possibly one of the greatest atmospheres I have ever seen at Jack Trice Stadium. In front of one of the loudest crowds, ISU pulled off another upset of a top-5 opponent, something they have now done twice this year (and only three times in school history).
In what was a magnificent locker room celebration, the game was encapsulated by the engaging words by our leader Matt Campbell in the locker room.
It made me want to do what I’m sure a lot of these players (and potential recruits) have thought – run through a brick wall for this man.
Some quotes that stood out to me in the locker room from Campbell:
“Your platform is team above self. And nobody wants to buy into that culture today. Our culture says it’s all about me, screw process, I want instant gratification.
‘If you fall in love with the process, eventually the process will love you back.
‘And if you want to continue on this journey - it’s a dark and lonely road. Everybody wants to buy our stock now. But you have got to shove that away.
‘Now they (media) are going to talk to you about a bowl – I don’t give a shit. This isn’t about 6-6. That’s bullshit. Bullshit programs care about 6-6.” – Matt Campbell
Wow. After a year and a half of coach speak about buying in, and believing in the process – it is finally coming to light. This team has not won with one player or one play – it is all 11 players on the field playing as one unit – and we as Cyclone fans are seeing the results.
All aboard the Hype Train.
When we last left off….
Iowa State beat #4 ranked TCU at home in what was a knock-down, drag-out fight. Kyle Kempt made some spectacular throws in the first half, but after halftime adjustments by Gary Patterson the Cyclone offense was shut down.
That was where the defense picked up the slack.
Two different times with TCU knocking on the door near the goal line, both times ISU came away with forced turnovers. Again, this team stared adversity in the face, and said “bring it on.”
It was all culminated with an interception by Marcel Spears, Jr. on the last drive. Then it was party time in Ames. Oh, and Taco Bell ran out of food. Haha
This was the fourth consecutive victory for the Clones, vaulting them up to #14 in the AP Poll. Tied for first in the Big 12 Conference, this ISU team controls its own destiny for a conference crown.
Coming into last week’s game versus Oklahoma State, West Virginia was ranked #22, but fell to the hands of the Cowboys by a lopsided score of 50-39. They come in with a respectful 5-3 record, but have under-performed in relation to their expectations.
So far, the mantra for this team has been good offense, but not-so-good defense.
The Mountaineers carry with them the NCAA leader in passing touchdowns and receiving touchdowns, as the connection from QB Will Grier to David Sills V has been as strong as Forrest and Jenny.
Led by Mike Leach disciple Dana Holgorsen, WVU is top-10 in the country in scoring offense, passing offense, and total offense. Their defense is the complete opposite – as they are 99th or worse in rushing defense, pass defense, and total defense.
Some of that has to do with the quick-twitch offensive game plan, as 41 of their 49 scoring drives this year have been in 10 plays or less. They are dead last in the Big 12 in time of possession, and that has been a back-breaker for the defense.
WVU leads this short-lived series by a margin of 4-1. ISU’s only victory came in a thrilling 52-44 Triple OT victory in Morgantown in 2013.
This guy was our quarterback.
Iowa State Offense
This matchup will be much easier than last week’s affair. West Virginia plays a 3-3-5 scheme with less beef up front, and, in turn, gives up a load of rushing yards. In fact, they are 9th in the Big 12, allowing over 200 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry.
First Key to Victory – Ride the DM Train
I foresee David Montgomery getting a lot of carries in this one, very similar to the Texas Tech game, where he nearly had 30 carries. The offensive line is down a man in Bryce Meeker, but redshirt freshman Sean Foster has seen plenty of snaps this year to fill that role serviceably. As the game goes on, the DM train will only get stronger, and it will be important for the running game to keep the WVU offense off the field.
ISU is one of only two teams nationally with four players catching four or more touchdowns on the year. Matthew Eaton has been a force lately, and you can’t forget about Allen Lazard. Any chance this team has of a one-on-one matchup on the outside – they will take it.
I used to be worried what type of resiliency we would get from Kyle Kempt at quarterback, but after playing in two hostile road games and another versus a top-5 defense at home, those worries are gone. Manning will continue to ride Kempt’s arm, allowing him to get rid of the ball quickly, create easy yards in the horizontal passing game, and then beat teams deep down the sideline with the jump ball.
The Mountaineer defense is predicated on speed, but has been unable to slow down the pass-happy teams of the Big 12. They give up over 37 points per game in conference play, even allowing 34 to lowly Kansas. That’s nearly as embarrassing as letting your little brother beat you in a game of 1-on-1.
There is little to no pass rush, as WVU only has 13 sacks on the year, and gain very little push up front. They are also young, as their starting lineup in the front-3 goes sophomore, true freshman, sophomore.
The linebackers are much more experienced, carrying two seniors, including leading tackler Al-Rasheed Brenton. The middle linebacker Brenton also leads the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks. His counterpart is Mike Daniels, Jr., who plays the pass well, as he has 7 pass breakups and an INT on the year.
The secondary plays with two outside corners and a nickel-back they call the “SPUR” position, similar to ISU’s “STAR”. The only good thing about this secondary is the fact they have forced more incompletions than most, allowing only 56% of opposing passes to be completed.
The defensive back group is led by Kyzir White and Dravon Askew-Henry. The latter of the bunch has started in all 34 games he has played at free safety, and is third on the team in tackles.
Second Key to Victory – Utilize the Size of Wide Receivers
ISU gains an advantage right off the bat with a stellar receiving corps and their size. WVU cornerbacks are experienced, yet only one defensive back is taller than 6-foot. With many options downfield, jump balls like this one in the red zone are an advantage for our taller targets.
The Verdict – ISU
By in large, this WVU defense is ripe for the picking. They have given up a ton of big plays, both through the air and on the ground. Look for Iowa State to take advantage of the mismatches on the outside, and control the tempo in the ground game.
Iowa State Defense
Another week, another Defensive Player of the Week award for Marcel Spears, Jr. The redshirt sophomore out of Olathe, KS has two game-sealing interceptions in back to back games. The Cyclone defense has continued its dominance, allowing just 24 points after halftime in all 5 Big 12 games, and keeping all opponents 10 points or more under their scoring average.
The TCU rushing attack got going late with an outside stretch run play which sucked in the linebackers on a crack-back block and sealed the outside. Look for WVU to capitalize, as they have one of the Big-12’s best in Justin Crawford. Ray Lima went out with back spasms last week, but should be good to go. In his absence, I saw some tremendous penetration from sophomore Jamahl Johnson, who disrupted at least two plays in the backfield.
The linebackers have all been superb lately, as Joel Lanning continues to rank sixth nationally in tackles. WVU likes to run the ball, and their linemen utilize a very simple man-blocking scheme. It will be paramount for not only Lima to hold his own on the inside, but for Jaquan Bailey and J.D. Waggoner to continue their pursuit on the outside. So far they have been fantastic, with Waggoner playing some of his best ball as of late.
The secondary can not get in these types of situations like last year.
This play matched up our safety in one-on-one coverage, and Kamari Cotton-Moya has to get help in the deep passing game. Look for ISU to continue its 3-3-5 look, with three safeties on the field, and support in the back end. I have seen a lot more Mackenro Alexander as of late, as he has added another dimension to the secondary with his size and speed.
Brian Peavy should have had a pick-six last week, and continues to stick to his receivers like white on rice. His counterparts D’Andre Payne and Evrett Edwards have been just as good, and even better at tackling in space. All three will have their hands full with top receiver David Sills V.
Third Key to Victory – Get Pressure on Grier
While QB Will Grier has been successful in the passing game, whenever he faces pressure he has forced throws, and caused turnovers. You saw it last week with Kenny Hill. After the Cyclones had forced pressure, Hill got happy feet and released the ball too early, making mistakes. ISU can take full advantage of those errors with pressure from the linebackers. Grier’s four turnovers last week were crucial to the outcome, and if ISU can win the turnover battle, they will be in the driver’s seat yet again.
Call him Brett Favre - there isn’t a throw that quarterback Will Grier doesn’t like. In fact, as long as his main man David Sills V is downfield he will give the big guy a shot.
Those two have hooked up for the most touchdowns by a QB/WR tandem this year, and Grier is reaping the benefits. The transfer from Florida started five games in Gainesville, but has found a new home in Morgantown. So far, he leads the country in passing TDs, is 2nd in passing yards per game, 7th in completions, and 9th in passing efficiency.
Grier can do it all, as he has a solid line to protect him, and a plethora of downfield threats to throw to. If Sills was Batman, his Robin would be Gary Jennings, Jr., as the 6-foot-1 receiver leads the team in receptions with 61. He is more of a possession-type receiver (with 1 TD), while Sills hauls in the money-grabs (15). There is no drop off with the third and fourth options, as Ka’Raun White and Marcus Simms have combined for over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With all this talk about the passing game, WVU still carries with it a potent rushing attack. Justin Crawford is third in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, with a 5.8 yard-per-carry average, and 7 touchdowns. He is a combination of speed and power, and runs behind one of the best fullbacks in the Big 12 in Elijah Wellman.
West Virginia runs typical 4-wide sets, but brings in Wellman as the lead blocker on running situations, similar to ISU and their “F” position, AKA the bowling ball Sam Seonbuchner. They run high-tempo speed, and have been uber-efficient in the red zone, converting 91% of the time.
The offensive line returned three starters from a year ago, and so far haven’t missed a beat, ranking number one in Big 12 in tackles-for-loss given up.
Verdict – ISU
Throw away all the stats ladies and gentlemen. This ISU defense has proven to us that they have the kryptonite for the Big-12’s spread-pass approach. WVU thrives on downfield passes, and this Cyclone team just doesn’t let that happen. The way to beat the new 3-man front against ISU is to dink and dunk for 3 and 4 yards per play. WVU does not have the patience, nor do they have the discipline to do so.
WVU has no semblance of a punt returner, but they do carry a weapon in Marcus Simms in the kick return game, averaging over 27 yards per return. Their kickers are 6-for-9 in field goals on the year, and the punter is solid at pinning the opponent inside the 20.
Garrett Owens needs to get back on track, after a shank a week ago. His confidence will be important moving forward for this team in close games.
A lot of negativity was said about Colin Downing and his performance against TCU last week. Downing did not have a great day in the yards column, but he did hold the Horned Frog’s return man Turpin to ZERO net return yards. I don’t know about you, but that is a win in my book.
Verdict – ISU
ISU has continued to win the field position battle, and can change the game on a moment’s notice with Trever Ryen back on punts.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
Even though the spread in Vegas has tabbed the Mountaineers as a favorite, that is sheerly on the fact they are playing at home. For this week, if you were to compare Kyle Kempt’s ability to buy beer in Ames, with a 1 when he was paying for all drinks (before Oklahoma), to a 10 when he pays for none (now), I give the Clones chances of winning at a solid 8.
There is no team playing better in the country right now.
It all comes down to the little things. This team is well equipped to beat any team on the road. They can win in a shootout, or with the way the defense is playing, in a slugfest. They just don’t beat themselves.
West Virginia on the other hand, makes those mistakes. They play high risk, high reward football. And Campbell and company will make sure to make them pay for it. I see the Cyclones winning on the road for the fifth consecutive game, and continuing to ride this train.
Iowa State 28