We are headed to the final game of the regular season for this Iowa State football team. West Virginia comes to town on Saturday so we decided to ask The Smoking Musket a few questons.
1- We are in year two of Neal Brown and the Mountaineers are a team that has greatly improved this season compared to last. What has been the biggest reason for the turn around and what will be the reason WVU continues to make the climb?
The improvement comes two fold. First the coaches and players emphasized the running game, which improved from one of the worst in the country last year to well above average. (It is tough to gauge how well some teams are playing when they have 2 or 3 games under their belts compared to 8 or 9 for other teams). Still, the Mountaineers run game has improved across the board, from running back Leddie Brown’s vision and patience to the offensive lines blocking to the wide receivers. Its a total team effort that has seen the team be able to run the ball much more effectively and therefore control the clock. On the defensive side, the defense asa whole improved and specifically improved their turnovers. Last year the team was below 20% on interceptions to pass breakups. That has improved and we’ve taken the ball away much more effectively which has cost opponents possessions.
2- Jarret Doege has been one of the most impressive QBs in the conference this season. What makes him so lethal?
Jarret plays within himself. He still struggles on deep passes but within 10-yards, he is very accurate and throws a very catchable ball. I say this as the most complimentary of tones, he is a game manager. He knows when to take a sack, he knows when to throw the ball away and he knows when to force a pass. With our current defense, he doesn’t have to go out and win games, he can simply play a field position battle and force a team to play against our top defense. Pushing a team back inside their 10 and making them drive 90 yards against the Stills brothers and Jeffrey Pooler is a tough task for most college teams.
3- I think one of the bigger surprises has been this mountaineer defense, they are just plain solid all the way around. Is this something we can get used to seeing? What has been the catalyst to the success on defense?
The success starts with Darius Stills who was named preseason Big 12 DPOY and IMO he’s played exactly like it. He forces a team to scheme around him and he has been disruptive all year. But more importantly the Mountaineers have play makers at every level of the defense. The defensive line is stout with Darius and Dante Stills, plus Jeffrey Pooler and Akheem Messidor. At linebacker, Tony Fields, the Arizona transfer has been a tackling machine. He is 16th in the nation in total tackles and covers sideline to sideline. Then on the backend, the Mountaineers have Tykee Smith, who is going to be playing on Sundays. He plays as our spear backer, mostly a nickel corner and he just makes plays.
I think the scheme is solid and you can expect the Mountaineers to be a solid defense, I’m not sure you can expect them to field a top ten defense yearly. The Stills brothers were a decade type player who just dont come along very often in WV Prep Football. So I think there will be drop off but the scheme is solid.
4- Give us one player that Iowa State fans may not know yet, but will know come Saturday.
Assuming you already know Darius Stills and Leddie Brown, let’s talk about Tykee Smith. Per PFF College, Tykee has been the second highest graded cornerback this season behind Patrick Surtain II. “At that position, you’ve got to be able to run because you’re lining up with probably the fastest person on the field in the slot,” Smith explained. “And you’ve got to be able to play in the box and help in the run fits…I like the position because it allows me to showcase my talents in multiple ways.” When I think of a football player, Tykee Smith is what I think about (and being a former strong safety I can live vicariously through him). Smith excels at matching up in the slot and despite only being a sophomore he has no problem getting his nose dirty and playing the run. You may remember former Mountaineer Karl Joseph. Smith doesn’t have the “boom” power that Joseph had but when the Mountaineers need a big play, Smith seems to be right in the middle of the play.
5- What is your prediction and why?
I really want to pick the Mountaineers. They haven’t played well on the road but I think they match up with the Cyclones very well. A good run defense against a good run offense. I think we have the defensive line to be able to clog the run lanes and be disruptive. And Purdy is dangerous but he isn’t the runner that some of the other Big 12 QBs are (not to say he can’t hurt us). I think its going to be a close game. Because its a home game for you guys and your run defense is also very good, if it comes down to making the two quarterbacks pass, I like Purdy more than I like Doege. I’m going to say ISU 23 - WVU 20 and I’m not comfortable with that selection at all. Something to keep an eye on, WVU has never gotten a lead on the road but has never relinquished at home. If WVU gets ahead, the game might be over but if you can keep it tied, we can’t lean on the defense.