The West Virginia and Iowa State football programs have had completely different experiences over the past three weeks.
The No. 9 Cyclones (7-2, 7-1 Big 12) are coming off of back-to-back victories over Kansas State and Texas that clinched them a spot in the Big 12 Championship game on Dec. 19. The Mountaineers (5-3, 4-3) have not played a game since Nov. 14 when they defeated TCU in Morgantown.
A scheduled off week and last week’s game against Oklahoma being postponed gave the Mountaineers an extended break that WVU coach Neal Brown is hoping will not throw them off track when they travel to Ames, Iowa this weekend.
“If we were in a situation where we knew we were going to have three weeks in between games, then you would manage it in a different manner,” Brown said Tuesday. “We didn’t know we were going to have that, we were under the assumption we were going to play until last Wednesday afternoon. We’ve managed it the best we could.”
While Brown attempts to knock any rust of the Mountaineers, ISU coach Matt Campbell will be attempting to keep the Cyclones from looking ahead to the championship.
“[West Virginia] jumps off the film just because of how talented a football team they really are,” Campbell said. “I think [they are] one of the teams that is probably playing as good team football as anybody in college football right now. We all know what kind of challenge is in front of us in terms of who we play.”
Iowa State is among the top three teams in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (33.1 points per game) and defense (23) this season. The Cyclones also have the second-ranked rushing offense and defense this season, averaging 195.9 yards per game while allowing only 108.6.
They are led on offense by quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall. With 2,025 yards and 14 touchdowns, Purdy is not putting up the volume statistics he did a year ago, but he has been the third-most efficient quarterback in the conference (139.3 passer efficiency). His favorite targets this season have been ISU’s three tight ends, who have combined for 59 catches, 764 yards and six touchdowns.
Hall leads the conference with 1,260 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. WVU running back Leddie Brown is in a distant second with 897 yards and nine touchdowns. Leddie Brown was dealing with an injury the last time WVU played against TCU and he is one of the players Neal Brown said benefitted the most from the extra time off.
“We are going to be fresh, that’s the positive,” Neal Brown said. “I hope our timing and everything can stay sharp, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. We’ve done as much good-on-good work as we possibly can while not being overly physical. We will be fresh, I think we’ll play fast and hopefully, our execution will match that.”
West Virginia linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo missed the game against TCU and would have been questionable against Oklahoma last week. ISU’s defense is spearheaded by linebacker Mike Rose. He leads the team with 76 total tackles to go along with 10 tackles for loss and four interceptions.
West Virginia and Iowa State will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday from Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. It will be senior day for the Cyclones and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
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