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Defensive Breakdown: Iowa State Cyclones



The Mountaineers will look to bounce back from a tough battle with Texas as they host Iowa State in Morgantown on Saturday.

Last year, the Mountaineers went to Ames ranked sixth in the country looking to continue their undefeated season, but the Cyclones had other ideas as they ended West Virginia’s dreams of an undefeated season as they beat the Mountaineers 30-14. West Virginia’s high-powered offense was held to just one offensive touchdown last season against the Iowa State defense, and their other touchdown was a blocked FG return.

This season, the Cyclones, who are led by head coach Matt Campbell and defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, will look to lock down the Mountaineers again.

Campbell is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Cyclones, has truly rebuilt this program from the bottom up. Heacock is entering his fourth season as DC at Iowa State, and has 35 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level. He utilizes multiple schemes, but most are based around the 3-4 and 4-3.

Last week, Heacock’s guys set the tone early, stopping TCU on seven of eight third downs in the first half. The defense forced a scoop-n-score in the second quarter which turned momentum in their favor. The ultimately held an explosive TCU offense to 24 points.


  • JaQuan Bailey, senior defensive end, underwent ankle surgery last Tuesday to fix am injury he suffered against Baylor. He is unlikely to play the rest of the season and Iowa State will likely medical redshirt him.

Names to keep an eye on:

  • Greg Eisworth (Defensive Back) – Eisworth, a redshirt junior, leads the team with 39 tackles this season. He also has three pass breakups. He is used in run support but can also slow down an opponent’s star receiver.

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  • Justin Bickham (Defensive back) – Bickham, a redshirt senior and graduate transfer from Rice, already has a good amount of experience. He’s played in 22 games the last two seasons, starting in 18 of those games. He already has 13 tackles and one pass breakup this season.

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  • Will McDonald (Linebacker) – McDonald, a redshirt freshman, was almost too hard to keep off the field last season. He played in four games but was still able to redshirt. He already has one sack this season.

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  • O’Rien Vance (Linebacker) – Vance, a redshirt sophomore, leads the team with 6.5 sacks and has 34 tackles this season.

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  • Zach Petersen (Defensive End) – Petersen, a sophomore, is JaQuan Bailey’s backup, but the Cyclones don’t consider him a backup type player. He already has 18 tackles and one sack this season. He also is very good at batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.

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The Mountaineers will need to run the ball efficiently against the Cyclones. In order for the West Virginia passing game to get going, the running game must be established first. The front seven for the Cyclones is on the younger side so West Virginia will need to attack them early and often. I believe Austin Kendall will be able to have a bounce back game at home against this defense if the run can bring more guys in the box and lets the receivers have more one on one opportunities against the corners.

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