Iowa State ready for road test against Mountaineers

Iowa State players celebrate after the Cyclones knock off No.8 Oklahoma State on Oct. 23. 

James Powell

AMES- It was the sweetest “Sweet Caroline” of the season last Saturday.

Iowa State’s win over No. 8 Oklahoma State was just that, sweet, but it’s just one game in a pivotal stretch of games for the Cyclones to close out their regular season.

Now, they travel to a place where Matt Campbell knows the West Virginia faithful will be waiting for them: Morgantown, West Virginia.

“It’s gonna be a packed house, it’s really important to everybody in that state and their families. I think it does make it a really special place to go play college football,” Campbell said.

Iowa State (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) heads south to Morgantown to take on West Virginia (3-4, 1-3 Big 12) as both teams head into this game with a win in their last game.

For the Cyclones it was the aforementioned victory over the Cowboys and for West Virginia, it was a 29-17 win against the Horned Frogs of TCU.

Iowa State finds itself right back in the middle of Big 12 contention, as the Cyclones have a three-way tie with Baylor and Oklahoma State for second place, as Oklahoma leads all teams with a 5-0 conference record.

With the emotions that came from their last victory, it’s easy for the Cyclones to turn this game into one they sleepwalk through, or at least sleepwalk into. 

Xavier Hutchinson, who recently has become target number one in the Cyclone offense, knows the importance of taking every opponent seriously.

“Every game is a big game, and we have to treat every single team like they’re a top-ranked team,” Hutchinson said. “The Big 12 is a tough conference and any team can beat any team any week.. if we don’t play at our best this could be a close game.”

Hutchinson had a massive day against the Cowboys in his last game and he’ll be looking to follow that up against the Mountaineers.

West Virginia comes into this game winning its last, but a 1-3 conference record speaks for itself. 

They aren’t the team that came to Ames as a top ten team in 2018. They more resemble the team that came to Ames last year and were defeated handily, 42-6.

Coming into this game, West Virginia ranks seventh in the Big 12 in scoring offense, scoring 28.4 points per contest.

Other numbers that stick out are their rushing numbers. They rank last in the Big 12 in rushing yards, averaging about 128 rushing yards per game. 

While none of their numbers stick out as worrisome for Iowa State as they head into this game, the Cyclone head coach knows they can’t be taken lightly.

“I think this West Virginia team is one of the most talented teams that we have played,” Campbell said. “I think they’re a team that is as up and coming as anybody in our conference. There’s a lot of youth on this roster right now. But boy, there is a lot of talent.”

Up and coming teams usually have nothing to lose, but plenty to win. If Iowa State comes into this game slow, the talent, speed and skill that West Virginia possesses could present problems.

West Virginia is led by quarterback Jarret Doege, a senior out of Lubbock, Texas. Doege has 1,701 yards passing so far this season, along with eight touchdowns.

Doege has been on the team since 2017, so is quite familiar with the system and what the Cyclones could potentially throw at him come Saturday.

The hero for West Virginia in their last game was Leddie Brown. Brown, also a senior, had 24 carries for 111 yards and three rushing scores.

Brown has already matched his season-long touchdown total from 2020. He had eight rushing touchdowns in all of 2020, and he already has eight through seven games this season.

With the senior leadership of Doege and Brown, West Virginia can present challenges for a veteran Cyclone team who seem to be playing their best football of the season, and it starts with their quarterback.

Purdy had 307 yards passing and two passing touchdowns in his last game, but the real story so far is his completion percentage.

He has completed 75.3 percent of his passes so far this season, about 10 points higher than in prior years. His last two games feature completion percentages of 81.8 and 88.0.

Matt Campbell has been impressed with his signal caller so far this year, and believes that fans are starting to come around on him as well, after some sub-par performances to start the season.

“I think all of those people that maybe said those not-nice things about Brock Purdy should really look in the mirror and say ‘Boy, how grateful are we at Iowa State to have that young man leading this program’,” Campbell said after the game Saturday.

Matt Campbell and his team will look to win their fourth straight game in Big 12 play and continue to work towards a return to Arlington in December.

The game can be seen at 1 p.m. via Big 12 Now on ESPN+.