INSIDE SCOOP

Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 09, 2018 at 7:49 pm.

Mountaineers want to get run game going at Iowa State

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 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 that 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.

“Improving our run game is critical, without a doubt,” Holgorsen said. “I was happy with how we ran the ball against them 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, but getting eight to 10 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 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. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell says Kempt practiced Sunday, but he thinks will be Purdy under center to start against West Virginia.

“Once again, this is the second week in a row we’ll prepare for three different quarterbacks,” Holgorsen said.