Game Preview: WVU vs. Iowa State
Series: WVU 1-0
Last meeting: 2012: WVU 31, ISU 24 F
Television: 4 p.m., Fox Sports 1 (Adam Alexander - play-by-play, Chris Sims - analysis)
Line: -8 West Virginia
West Virginia (4-7, 2-6) will host Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) in the season finale and the senior day for 14 Mountaineer players.
Neither team will be bowl eligible regardless of the outcome so the game will mark the final one for both teams this season. The Mountaineers will look to finish the season on a high note while sending out the seniors with a victory, while Iowa State will be looking to win consecutive Big 12 Conference games after a 34-0 win against Kansas a week ago.
The Cyclones are led by head coach Paul Rhoads, who has amassed a career record of 26-36 during his five seasons in Ames including leading Iowa State to three bowl games during that time. West Virginia fans are familiar with Rhoads from his time as the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator from 2000-2007 where he won four of his eight meetings against the Mountaineers.
This will be the first trip to Morgantown for the Cyclones, who snapped a seven game losing streak a week ago and piled up 502-yards of total offense against the Jayhawks. In total, Iowa State has lost five games this season by one possession, leading West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen to refer to them as the "best 2-9 team in the country."
"They're an extremely competitive football team. They are what they usually are, which is incredibly coached. They have a tough outfit. They're extremely sound with their schemes. It will be a tremendous challenge for us as it is every week in the Big 12," he said.
The Cyclones offense has dealt with some of the same issues as the Mountaineers with two quarterbacks seeing time this year, but in recent weeks redshirt freshman Grant Rohach has taken control of the offense and assumed the role as the starting quarterback.
As usual, the Cyclones will attempt to run the football with a stable of running backs and feature talented playmakers on the outside such as sophomore wide receiver Quenton Bundrage who has caught seven touchdowns this season.
Defensively, veteran coordinator Wally Burnham returns and has transformed the Iowa State defense into one of the most consistent in the Big 12 Conference. The Cyclones will attempt to take away the run and force teams to beat them through the air. Over the last four years the Cyclones are one of three teams to force over 23 turnovers.
This year's group is led by senior Jeremiah George, who recorded 11 tackles against the Mountaineers a season ago. And establishing the run will be essential for the Mountaineers.
Last season, West Virginia won the first ever meeting between the two programs 31-24 snapping a five game losing streak in the process. Geno Smith led the Mountaineers with 236 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, while Tavon Austin scored the game winning score from 75-yards out and the West Virginia defense came up big when Darwin Cook forced a Jeff Woody fumble that was recovered by Karl Joseph in the end zone.
The game will be the final one for 14 West Virginia seniors which include: LB Tyler Anderson, DL Will Clarke, S Darwin Cook, DL Trevor Demko, OL Pat Eger, OLB Dozie Ezemma, OL Curtis Feigt, OL Nick Kindler, RB Nate Majnaric, S William Marble, WR Ivan McCartney, LB Doug Rigg, DL Shaq Rowell and RB Charles Sims.
Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.
West Virginia Depth Chart:
QB - 9 Clint Trickett (r-Jr)or 14 Paul Millard (Jr) or 7 Ford Childress (r-Fr)
RB (A) - 3 Charles Sims (r-Sr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr), 2 Dreamius Smith (Jr), 29 Dustin Garrison (Jr)
FB (B) - 88 Cody Clay (r-So), 42 Garrett Hope (So)
WR (X) - 5 Mario Alford (Jr), 82 Devonte Mathis (r-Fr)
WR (Z) - 11 Kevin White (Jr), 85 Ivan McCartney (Sr.)
IR (Y) - 6 Daikiel Shorts (Fr), 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
LT - 79 Nick Kindler (r-Sr), 63 Mike Calicchio (r-Jr)
LG - 67 Quinton Spain (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
C - 76 Pat Eger (r-Sr), 65 Tyler Orlosky (r-Fr)
RG - 64 Mark Glowinski (r-Jr), 78 Marquis Lucas (r-So)
RT - 62 Curtis Feigt (r-Sr), 57 Adam Pankey (r-Fr)
DT - 98 Will Clarke (r-Sr), 97 Noble Nwachukwu (r-Fr)
NT - 90 Shaq Rowell (r-Sr), 49 Darrien Howard (Fr)
DE - 93 Kyle Rose (r-So), 45 Eric Kinsey (So)
BUCK - 2 Brandon Golson (Jr), 18 Marvin Gross (Fr)
SPUR - 31 Isaiah Bruce (r-So)
WILL - 53 Tyler Anderson(r-Sr), 56 Jewone Snow (r-Jr)
SAM - 35 Nick Kwiatkoski (r-So), 11 Sean Walters (r-Fr)
FCB - 34 Ishmael Banks (r-Jr), 20 Brandon Napoleon (r-Fr)
FS - 8 Karl Joseph (So), 43 Jarrod Harper (r-Fr)
BS - 25 Darwin Cook (r-Sr), 41 Ricky Rumph (So)
BCB - 7 Daryl Worley (Fr), 26 Travis Bell (r-Jr)
PK - 86 Josh Lambert (r-Fr)
P - 91 Nick O'Toole (So)
KO - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
LS -87 John DePalma (So)
H - 48 Michael Molinari (r-Jr)
PR - 10 Jordan Thompson (So)
KR - 5 Mario Alford (Jr), 4 Wendell Smallwood (Fr)
Sixteen Mountaineers earned their first career starts this season with Mario Alford (WR), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), Mark Glowinski (RG), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Marquis Lucas (LG), Paul Millard (QB), KJ Myers (WR), Tyler Orlosky (C), WR Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Daryl Worley (CB), Josh Lambert (K), Nick O'Toole (P).
True freshmen that have played include: Marvin Gross (LB), Darrien Howard (DL), Carlton Nash (CB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Daikiel Shorts (WR), Jeremy Tyler (S) and Daryl Worley (CB).
In total, 31 Mountaineers saw their first game action this season including Mario Alford (WR), Justin Arndt (LB), Michael Calicchio (OL), Ronald Carswell (WR), Ford Childress (QB), James Gayeski (DL), Brandon Golson (BUCK), Mark Glowinski (RG), Jarrod Harper (S), Darrien Howard (DL), Dontrill Hyman (DE), Josh Lambert (K), Devonte Mathis (WR), Logan Moore (WR), Carlton Nash (CB), Brandon Napoleon (CB), Noble Nwachukwu (DE), Tyler Orlosky (C), Nick O'Toole (P), Adam Pankey (OL) Daikiel Shorts (WR), Charles Sims (RB), Wendell Smallwood (RB), Dreamius Smith (RB), Clint Trickett (QB), Jeremy Tyler (S), Sean Walters (LB), Kevin White (WR), Daryl Worley (CB) and Maurice Zereoue (RB).
Injuries: Several players including senior safety Darwin Cook, senior offensive tackle Curtis Feigt, sophomore linebacker Isaiah Bruce and freshman cornerback Daryl Worley are all considered questionable. Junior linebacker Jared Barber is out for the season with a torn ACL. Sophomore safety KJ Dillon is also out for the season with complications from severe dehydration. Junior running back Dustin Garrison has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Redshirt freshman Ford Childress remains out with a torn pectoral muscle. Redshirt junior Wes Tonkery will be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder surgery. Sophomore Christian Brown is out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury and will receive a medical redshirt. Redshirt senior and back up BUCK linebacker Dozie Ezemma broke his lower leg and foot against William & Mary and will miss the remainder of the season. West Virginia also will be without junior linebacker Shaq Petteway who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh also will miss the entirety of the season with a shoulder injury.
Redshirts: Players that will be redshirting this season include: junior running back Andrew Buie, sophomore defensive lineman Christian Brown, junior linebacker Shaq Petteway, sophomore running back Rushel Shell, junior offensive lineman Stone Underwood, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson, freshmen linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, freshman fullback Elijah Wellman, freshman safety Isaac McDonald, freshman wide receiver Jacky Marcellus, freshman linebacker Hodari Christian, freshman safety Malik Greaves, freshman offensive lineman Marcell Lazard, freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno and freshman offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter.
Points to click:
* Close strong: West Virginia can't play for a bowl game at season's end, but it can play for some pride and send the seniors out on a high note. A victory would be big for momentum heading into the offseason as well as letting the seniors get a victory in their final game at Mountaineer Field. Managing the emotions will be a key to this game, but the Mountaineers should have the edge in momentum.
* Play to your strengths: I don't know how many times we've made Charles Sims one of our keys to the game but it deserves repeating one final time. Incorporating Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood into the rushing attack is important but the ISU defense needs to be fed a steady diet of number three. ISU has given some Big 12 teams fits most of the season but if West Virginia can lean on its one offensive playmaker then the Mountaineer's should be able to keep themselves on the field for more than three plays and more importantly, keep the defense off of it.
* Force the Freshman to play like one: Not many quarterbacks have looked bad against a young, but improving West Virginia defense this year. It seemed that the freshman especially had their way. That trend is going to have to stop Saturday if WVU hopes to get a victory against Iowa State. ISU freshman quarterback carved up Kansas for 300 yards in just his sixth collegiate game ever. The same Jayhawks defense held WVU to almost 60 yards less while the Mountaineers were playing catch-up the week before.
* Play for the Moment: You can break down the X's and the O's all you want in this match-up but it will come down to who wants it more. West Virginia is going to have to man up and get over the Kansas loss and play this season's finale as if it their bowl game, because it will be. It will be an opportunity for Mountaineer seniors to go out with a win on in their last game at Milan Puskar stadium.
If the team can rally around the seniors and play with some pride then the outcome should take care of itself. If the same effort from the Kansas game makes an appearance Saturday then you can expect to the Mountaineer's to cap off an extremely disappointing 4-8 season with back-to-back losses to teams that were originally penciled in as victories. Obviously not the way this staff would like to go into the recruiting cycle with.