Cyclones prepare for potent West Virginia offense


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Linebacker Jake Hummel tries to stop former quarterback Kyler Murray of the Oklahoma Sooners from running any further Sept. 15, 2018, during their game at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones lost 27-37.

Trevor Holbrook

If you enjoyed the 90 combined points in Iowa State’s 48-42 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, you’re in for a treat this weekend, too.

Quarterback Will Grier and the West Virginia offense will attempt to outscore a recently explosive Iowa State offense on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Jack Trice Stadium.

“It takes the whole defense,” said Jake Hummel, sophomore linebacker. “We need pressure. We need good coverage to give those [defensive] linemen enough time to get there or vice versa. [We need to] get enough pressure to force him to throw a bad pass. Obviously, [we need to] stop the run and force him to throw the ball.”

Grier entered this season with high expectations, and the senior has lived up to it so far. In five games, Grier has compiled 1,819 yards with a 71.2 percent completion rate and 21 touchdowns to six interceptions.

The Florida transfer spreads the ball to his offensive weapons, too. Ten different Mountaineer receivers caught one of Grier’s touchdown passes with David Sills and Gary Jennings leading the pack with six each.

The touchdown leaders of the receiving corps are topped in yardage by Marcus Simms with 490 receiving yards (Sills has 368 yards and Jennings has 364). To compliment the trio, Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons has chipped in 227 yards and a touchdown through five games.

To slow down the potent passing attack, the Cyclones will lean on senior cornerbacks, Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne, along with contributions from the rest of the secondary.

“Tackle in space,” said Jon Heacock, defensive coordinator,  on the most important job of the cornerbacks. “I think the talent that they have at the skill positions — the number of guys catching balls, the tailbacks and the ability of a guy that’s going to be up for the Heisman [Trophy] and should be — our guys are going to have to tackle guys in space.”

The defense may not be relied on too much if the Cyclone offense can explode like it did against Oklahoma State.

This week will be tougher for freshman quarterback Brock Purdy and company to emulate the performance from last week. On paper, West Virginia’s defense is better than the Cowboy defense, but the Mountaineer defense is mostly untested with the biggest challenge being a Texas Tech offense that put up 34 points.

West Virginia also has a luxury Oklahoma State didn’t have. Purdy played two snaps and wasn’t listed as the starter against Oklahoma State, so the Cowboys had minimal preparation for the freshman.

West Virginia has almost a complete game of film on Purdy. Meanwhile, junior running back David Montgomery’s status is still unclear for Saturday’s game. The feature back missed Iowa State’s win in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Even if he plays but isn’t 100 percent, the Cyclones will likely look toward Sheldon Croney Jr. and Kene Nwangwu to shoulder some of the load. Nwangwu received more carries than he had all season in Saturday’s win.

The redshirt sophomore toted the ball 10 times for 49 yards. The speedster fits well with Purdy’s threat of running.

“Kene’s another guy that we constantly talk about how he can impact a game,” said Bryan Gasser, wide receivers coach. “We’ve all seen it on kick returns two years ago and early this season, he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.”

If Iowa State wants to string together another undefeated October like it did last year that propelled the Cyclones to a bowl game and an 8-5 season, they need to find big plays to keep pace with West Virginia’s offense. On the flip side, the Cyclone defense needs to limit big plays and create enough opportunities for Purdy and the offense.