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Game Preview: WVU vs. Iowa State

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Grier has a national leading 28 touchdown passes.

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Series: WVU 4-1

Last meeting: 2016: WVU 49 Iowa State 19

Television: 3:30 p.m. ESPN2, Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Tommy Tuberville (analyst), Paul Carcaterra (sideline)


West Virginia (5-3, 3-2) will look to rebound at home by hosting yet another ranked team in the surprise of the Big 12 Conference to date No. 14/16 Iowa State (6-2, 4-1).

The Mountaineers are coming off a disappointing 50-39 loss to Oklahoma State where five West Virginia turnovers were cashed into 27-points for the Cowboys. The defense also was able to force four turnovers, but were only able to cash that in for seven points as a second half rally was halted by the visiting Pokes.

Iowa State has seen a resurgence under second-year head coach Matt Campbell with the Cyclones already knocking off a pair of top five teams in Oklahoma and TCU a week ago. The 6-2 start is the best for Iowa State since 2012 and the four game Big 12 Conference winning streak is the best mark since the 2005 season.

Iowa State will be looking to win five straight conference games for the first time since the 1978 season putting this year's club in rare air.

Campbell was hired by the Cyclones after a successful stint at Toledo and although he was 3-9 in his first year atop the program, Iowa State has seen a drastic turnaround in his second year becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2012.

This will be the second meeting between Holgorsen and Campbell with the Mountaineers winning last season in Ames 49-19.

Overall, the Mountaineers are 4-1 against Iowa State since joining the Big 12 at the start of the 2012 season with the only loss coming in Morgantown in 2013.

Built on a punishing defense and an opportunistic offense, the Cyclones have allowed only a total of 27-points over the last 14 quarters with seven of those coming on a kick return. Last week, Iowa State knocked off TCU by holding the explosive Horned Frogs offense to only seven points which came on the aforementioned kick return.

The Cyclones are allowing only 18 points per game and are holding opponents to only 347 yards per contest and Iowa State ranks eighth nationally in turnover margin. Iowa State also leads the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 60 through eight games.

The Iowa State defense has trimmed almost 13-points and over 100-yards per game off its totals from a season ago as it has established itself as one of the better in the Big 12 Conference in the second year under Campbell.

The offense is on pace to be one of the better in school history as well averaging 32.5 points per game just shy of the all-time mark of 33.5 set in 1976. One of two teams not to lose a fumble this season, the Cyclones value the football.

While senior quarterback Kyle Kempt did not start the season leading the Cyclones offense he has taken the role by the horns since being thrust into it leading Iowa State to a 4-0 start while throwing for 859 yards and nine touchdowns.

The signal caller has a number of weapons to dispense the football to led by senior wide receiver Allen Lazard who leads Iowa State in receptions with 39, yards with 477 and touchdowns with five. Sophomore Hakeem Butler has hauled in 26 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Trevor Ryen has 27 catches for 321 yards and a score from the inside wide receiver spot.

While Iowa State has struggled running the football at times, sophomore David Montgomery is the exception to that with 716 yards on the ground and eight scores.

West Virginia will be looking to knock off its second ranked opponent this season after dispatching No. 24 Texas Tech at home, although the Mountaineers have dropped three other decisions to teams in the top 25.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.

West Virginia Depth Chart:

OFFENSE:

QB: 7 Will Grier, (r-Jr.), 11 Chris Chugunov, (r-So.)

RB: 25 Justin Crawford, (Sr.), 4 Kennedy McKoy, (So.), 32 Martell Pettaway, (So.)

HB: 28 Elijah Wellman, (r-Sr.), 81 Trevon Wesco, (r-Jr.)

X WR: 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.), 8 Marcus Simms (So.)

Y/H WR: 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.), 85 Ricky Rogers, (r-Jr.)

Z WR: 2 Ka'Raun White, (r-Sr.), 6 Reggie Roberson, Jr., (Fr.)

LT: 55 Yodny Cajuste, (r-Jr.), 72 Kelby Wickline, (r-So.)

LG: 73 Josh Sills, (r-Fr.), 78 Jacob Buccigrossi, (r-Fr.)

C: 79 Matt Jones, (r-So.), 58 Ray Raulerson, (r-Jr.)

RG: 62 Kyle Bosch, (r-Sr.), 56 Grant Lingafelter, (r-Sr.)

RT: 53 Colton McKivitz, (r-So.), 65 Isaiah Hardy, (Jr.)

DEFENSE:

DE: 88 Adam Shuler, (r-So.), 92 Jon Lewis, (r-Sr.)

NT: 49 Lamonte McDougle, (Fr.), 94 Jalen Harvey, (r-Jr.)

DE: 46 Reese Donahue, (So.), 93 Ezekiel Rose, (Jr.)

SAM LB: 5 Xavier Preston, (Sr.), 33 Quondarius Qualls (Jr.)

MIKE LB: 3 Al-Rasheed Benton, (r-Sr.), 45 Adam Hensley (So.)

WILL LB: 11 David Long, Jr. (r-So.), 10 Dylan Tonkery, (r-Fr.)

SPUR: 8 Kyzir White, (Sr.), 18 Marvin Gross, Jr., (r-Sr.)

BS: 16 Toyous Avery, (r-Jr.), 1 Derrek Pitts, Jr., (Fr.)

FS: 6 Dravon Askew-Henry, (r-Jr.), 9 Jovanni Stewart, (So.)

LCB: 19 Elijah Battle, (Sr.), 2 Kenny Robinson, (Fr.)

RCB: 4 Mike Daniels, Jr., (Sr.), 24 Hakeem Bailey, (r-So.)

SPECIAL TEAMS:

K: 48 Mike Molina, (r-Sr.), 30 Evan Staley (r-Fr.)

P: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

LS: 52 Nick Meadows, (r-Sr.), 64 Rex Sunahara, (r-So.)

H: 15 Billy Kinney, (r-Jr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

KO: 30 Evan Staley, (r-Fr.), 43 Luke Hogan, (r-Fr.)

PR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.), 13 David Sills, V, (Jr.)

KOR: 8 Marcus Simms (So.) 12 Gary Jennings, Jr., (Jr.)

NOTES:

--This year marks the 126th year of West Virginia football with the Mountaineers currently sitting in 14th place all-time in wins in college football.

--WVU is 25-25 in Big 12 Conference Games, 13-12 at home. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen is 4-1 all-time against Iowa State with a 1-1 mark in Morgantown.

--Since 2000, West Virginia is 112-15 when scoring more than 30 points and 57-4 when scoring more than 40 points in a game. West Virginia had a streak snapped of 16-straight wins when the Mountaineers scored 30-points in the loss to Oklahoma State last week.

--The Mountaineers are 83-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle.

--In the Holgorsen era, WVU has produced 81 games with 300 or more yards, 61 games with 400 or more yards, 33 games with more than 500 yards and 17 with more than 600 yards.

--Under Holgorsen West Virginia has scored 30 or more points in 57 games, 40 or more points in 29 games, 50 or more points in 10 games and 60 or more points three times.

--The 2017 roster consists of 121 players from 20 different states.

--Coaching staff assignments: AHC/DC/LB Tony Gibson (field), OC/QB Jake Spavital (field), CB Doug Belk (press box), WR Tyron Carrier (field), S Matt Caponi (field), RB Tony Dews (field), LB/ST Mark Scott (press box), DL Bruce Tall (press box), OL Joe Wickline (field)

--There are 33 Mountaineers who have seen their first WVU action during the 2017 season: Hakeem Bailey (CB), Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Tevin Bush (RB), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (FB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Will Grier (QB), Isaiah Hardy (OL), Jalen Harvey (DL), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Dominique Maiden (WR), Alejando Marenco III (WR), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Quondarius Qualls (LB), Xavier Pegues (DL) Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Jeffery Pooler (DL), Ray Raulerson (OL), Reggie Roberson Jr (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB), Ezekiel Rose (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Darius Stills (DL), Rex Sunahara (LS), Dylan Tonkery (LB), Kelby Wickline (OL), Corey Winfield (CB) and Jonn Young (P).

--West Virginia has run a total of 613 plays with 287 coming on the ground and 326 through the air. The rushing game has totaled 1,290 yards for an average of 4.5 per carry and 14 touchdowns. The passing attack has totaled 2,833 yards, 29 touchdowns and an average of 13.7 per completion.

--The Mountaineers have gained 76 first downs via the run and 113 with the pass. West Virginia has averaged 161.2 yards per game on the ground and 354.1 in the air for a total of 515.4 yards per game.

Injuries/Suspensions: Redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns will miss the remainder of the 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Redshirt junior Toyous Avery did not suit up against Oklahoma State and his status is up in the air, same can be said for redshirt senior kicker Mike Molina.

Redshirts: Six true freshmen played in the season opener against Virginia Tech in Tevin Bush (RB), Lamonte McDougle (DL), Derrek Pitts Jr. (S), Reggie Roberson Jr. (WR), Kenny Robinson (CB) and Darius Stills (DL).

--A total of fourteen redshirt freshmen have seen action for the Mountaineers in 2017: Chase Behrndt (OL), Dante Bonamico (S), Druw Bowen (WR), Mitch Chugunov (WR), Elijah Drummond (HB), Brendan Ferns (LB), Osman Kamara (S), Jake Long (CB), Sean Mahone (CB), Jefferey Pooler (DL), Josh Sills (OL), Evan Staley (K), Dylan Tonkery (LB), and Jonn Young (P).

--Others that have played and will not redshirt: Junior offensive lineman Isaiah Hardy, Junior wide receiver Dominique Maiden.

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Although West Virginia forced four turnovers, it scored only seven points off of them a week ago.

POINTS TO CLICK:

--Win up front. It almost goes without saying that winning at the line of scrimmage is a necessity to win football games but it is especially important after West Virginia was dominated in that aspect against Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers rushed for only 62 yards on 30 carries against the Cowboys as the Pokes defensive line controlled the game prompting head coach Dana Holgorsen to say that things were going to get uncomfortable around camp Mountaineer because of the recent struggles when it comes to being physical and running the football. It won’t be any easier against an Iowa State defense that has stopped the run to date, ranking inside the top 30 nationally and allowing only 127 yards per game. It will be gut check time for the Mountaineers to establish the run and help take some pressure off a defense which has been on the field quite a bit over the last two games. The physical play up front has been part of West Virginia’s identity the past couple years and it needs to be recaptured.

--Reset and go on offense. Bad games happen. There is no question about that and you hope that West Virginia has gotten theirs out of their system in their poorest offensive effort of the season against Oklahoma State. Struggling to run the football, wide receivers not getting open and pressure in the face of Grier led to five turnovers and another five three and outs. The Cyclones are the No. 32nd rated defense in the country and are even better when it comes to limiting scoring allowing only 18 points per game and just held TCU to seven points. This won’t be a get-right type of game; the Mountaineers are going to have to earn it but the offense has to get back to doing what it does best.

--Stop the run. The Iowa State offense isn’t as explosive as some of the others in the Big 12 Conference but the Cyclones are still scoring over 30-points per game through their first eight of the season. But the Mountaineers can help themselves. Iowa State has struggled to establish the run this season, ranking 117th nationally with only 112 yards per game, while West Virginia is giving up 204.6 yards per game. The winner of this match up will go a long way toward deciding the eventual outcome.

--Start fast. This just simply didn’t happen a week ago as West Virginia was gifted with a pair of turnovers and couldn’t cash in with any points. This week, the Mountaineers will get another crack at upending a ranked team at home and West Virginia is going to have to cash in a better all-around effort if it wants to pull it off. Getting off on the right foot could go a long way here towards getting the crowd involved in the game and allowing the team to feed off that.

--Win outside. West Virginia has had up and down play out of its cornerback group throughout the course of the season but if defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is going to be able to heat up the Cyclones with various blitzes, that group has to win battles on the outside against a group of Iowa State wide receivers that have not only size but skill. It won’t be an easy task, but the group has shown it can do it at times, yet consistency has escaped the unit. They’re going to have to find it.

--Special teams. Just go ahead and take out a space for this point every week, because it’s going to be there. Special teams have been a sore subject at times this year for West Virginia as the Mountaineers have struggled in different areas throughout the year. However, the unit has been gradually improving and even was a huge swing in favor of the Mountaineers a week ago. Still, special teams always loom large and West Virginia will need to continue to play well in the third phase.

--Turnovers. West Virginia is 83-11 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle which is a very telling sign. The Mountaineers will need to take care of the football as five turnovers resulted in 27-points for Oklahoma State a week ago. The Mountaineers can’t afford to give away opportunities and when they are able to force mistakes, West Virginia has to turn that into points on the scoreboard.

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