West Virginia at Iowa State

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
SITE: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
TV: FS1
SERIES: West Virginia leads Iowa State 5-1 and has won all three games in Ames.
RANKINGS: West Virginia No. 6

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mountaineers

–QB Will Grier completed 28 of 41 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 38-22 win over Kansas last week, but afterward everyone was talking more about his mistakes — three red-zone interceptions in the first half. He found 10 different receivers in notching the 13th time in his 16 starts that he has finished with 300 or more yards passing.

–WR Marcus Simms has 27 catches for 490 yards and a touchdown in the first five games. With a greater volume this year, expect Simms’ numbers to spike. He is an excellent special teams player for the Mountaineers as well, racking up 42 yards in returns including a 35-yard kickoff return.

–WR David Sills V is off to a flying start this year with 30 catches for 368 yards and six touchdowns over the first five games. He’s a prototype slot receiver who can make the big catches over the middle and handle one-on-one hand-play with defensive backs.

Cyclones

–DE JaQuan Bailey had another sack against Oklahoma State, giving him 13 for his career. The junior is already coming off an honorable mention all-Big 12 performance in his sophomore season, and his ability to be a disruptive force will be essential in the Cyclones attempt to slow down the Mountaineers.

–DB Braxton Lewis extended his interception streak to three games with another pick against Oklahoma State and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. Not bad work for a walk-on, and coach Matt Campbell indicated that he’d be next in line for a scholarship when one becomes available.

–WR Hakeem Butler continues to move up the charts among Iowa State wide receivers. He moved into the top-25 in receiving yards last week, and his 13 career touchdown catches rank eighth all-time at the school.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

When sixth-ranked West Virginia heads west to Ames, Iowa, on Saturday evening to battle Iowa State in a key Big 12 Conference showdown at Jack Trice Stadium its focus will be on the run game — stopping the Cyclones’ and improving on its own.

The Mountaineers, despite being 5-0 and 3-0 in Big 12 play, have been a pass-heavy team this season, as Heisman Trophy hopeful Will Grier and his bevy of top-drawer receivers have racked up better than 364 yards per game through the air.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday that he would like to see more balance from his offense and an improvement in the run game.

“Stepping up our run game is critical, without a doubt,” Holgorsen said.

“I was happy with how we ran the ball against Iowa State last year. They give us favorable boxes, but they do a really nice job of filling gaps from second- and third-level defenders, which usually means that you can get five (yards), but getting eight to 10 (yards) is hard.

“We did an outstanding job last year being patient with running the ball. Last week, we did the same thing. We did a good job of running the ball until we got into the red zone.”

Iowa State (2-3, 1-2 Big 12) wants to run the ball to control the clock and limit the possessions for Grier and his arsenal.

“Offensively, they’re searching a little bit for their identity, so to speak, because of some injury issues that everybody has to deal with at times,” Holgorsen said about Iowa State. “They will keep getting better on offense. Last week’s performance at Oklahoma State was impressive, and that’s what we will be expecting moving forward.”

For the third straight game, West Virginia’s defense has to be ready to deal with a stable of quarterbacks with different styles.

Iowa State freshman Brock Purdy burst onto the scene last week in a 48-42 win at Oklahoma State.

Kyle Kempt began the season as the starter for ISU before being sidelined with an ankle injury. Zeb Noland took over for Kempt, but when Purdy got his chance, he made the most of it.

“We can do a lot of things,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “With Brock’s opportunity to get in the football game, he certainly opened up some playbook pages that we were able to get to.”

The difference with Purdy, is that he’s a dual-threat to pass or run. He kept Oklahoma State off balance last Saturday, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 84 yards and another score in the win.

Purdy’s 402 total yards were the eighth-best game by a player in Iowa State history. Another performance like that could result in a shootout with West Virginia.

Campbell says Kempt practiced Sunday, but he thinks will be Purdy under center to start against West Virginia.

“The biggest thing for him is just to stay level headed and continue to grow,” Campbell said about Purdy. “And he’s really done that since he’s been here. I think like our football team, Brock is a great example of that. He’s gotten better every day.”

This game marks the seventh meeting between West Virginia and Iowa State, with the Mountaineers holding a 5-1 lead and a 3-0 advantage in games played in Ames.