Ever since their introduction into the Big 12, West Virginia has been one of Iowa State fans’ favorite opponents to play, and the games usually end up being pretty entertaining. In anticipation of this year’s Riot Bowl, we talked to Matt Kirchner from The Smoking Musket to get his thoughts on this weekend’s game.
1. Will Grier’s been extremely good for most of season thus far, but did struggle last week a bit in throwing three interceptions in the endzone. Were the picks more about Kansas bowing up in the endzone (as the common location of all three would seem to suggest) or were they mainly a result of mistakes on WVU’s end?
I tend to lean to the side that it was more of a fluke than a trend, though Will Grier does have a Favre-ian “I can make every throw” mentality that can create those opportunities for opponents. You live with that when his “bad day” still ends with 350 yards and four touchdowns.
Our red zone offense on the whole had been a great strength this season, as they scored *every time* they reached the red zone until those three weird picks against Kansas.
It’s a bit of a concern, but I think it’s being overblown slightly, especially against a team in Kansas whose one strength seems to be forcing turnovers.
2. As one of the best offenses in the country (and a member of the Big12), many outside pundits would assume West Virginia to just be another Big 12 Air Raid team that takes advantage of bad defenses. However, WVU consistently seems to have an excellent run game to compliment the plethora of playmakers at receive, and this year is no different. Is establishing the run a priority for these Mountaineers, or is it more of an extremely effective compliment to a top flight passing game?
Holgo loves to establish the run and get good plays off play action and RPO to the point that Mike Leach kicked him out of the air raid club during the Skyler Howard-led 10 win season in 2016.
Being able to go three or four deep with very competent running backs is a huge strength for this offense because it allows us to stay fresh and each back also helps out a ton in the passing game.
3.Will Grier and David Sills are the headliners for the offense, but who else do Cyclone fans need to keep their eye on when WVU is on offense?
Marcus Simms has emerged as a legitimate superstar option for Will Grier. He’s the fastest receiver on the team and brings an extra gear that Sills and Jennings don’t bring to the table.
Look for us to go deep to Simms early to open up the middle of the field for Sills and Jennings. It’s nearly impossible to defend all three.
4. Typically, young quarterbacks have had difficulties navigating West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense, somewhat unique to the Big 12, when facing it for the first time. In all likelihood, freshman Brock Purdy will be facing exactly this challenge on Saturday. Why is this defense so tricky for newcomers to have success against?
It’s a very strange alignment that allows DC Tony Gibson to disguise blitzes and coverages very well at the line of scrimmage, leading to guessing games by quarterbacks who haven’t played against it before. Those guessing games lead to bad decisions that go the other way much more often than not.
5. The Mountaineer defense has been better than advertised this season. What’s been the key to them outperforming a lot of preseason expectations?
West Virginia has a real, live, competent defensive line for the first time in a while. For all the advantages the 3-3-5 gives WVU, we always struggle to recruit elite linemen on defense. Transfers and quality recruiting have finally gotten the DL to a position of strength and we’re able to collapse the pocket without compromising our defensive backfield. USC transfer Kenny Bigelow has been an absolute superstar from the first snap of the year and is the clear leader of the unit.
6. What do we need to do to get both universities to adopt our gas can as the official trophy for this game?
Just fake it until we make it, $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy style.
7. Which is more riot-y, burning couches or burning dumpsters?
Dumpsters, I think.
8. Why is the nickname for WVU’s sports teams the ‘Eers instead of the ‘Neers? ‘Neers clearly rolls off the tongue better.
Because it is.
9. Prediction Time. Who do ya got?
I think that it’s a very hard fought game that West Virginia ends up winning via talent differential. The trio of Sills, Jennings, and Simms are able to make one too many plays for Iowa State and the 3-3-5 gets Brock Purdy to make a crucial freshman mistake late to allow West Virginia to escape Ames by something along the lines of 31-24.