West Virginia football is back in Morgantown on Saturday as it hosts its second ranked opponent in the No. 22 Iowa State Cyclones. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
The Mountaineers are coming off their first win in Big 12 competition in 2021, as well as their first road victory since 2019. Neal Brown’s squad got back on top after an apparent improvement in the run game after its bye week, while the defense snagged three massive turnovers to seal the win.
The Cyclones have won three straight games, and four of their last five. Their most recent might be the biggest of the season so far, as they took down the eighth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys behind a lights-out game from quarterback Brock Purdy — maintaining a spooky trend for the signal-caller, in which his team seems to thrive in the month of October.
As a result, the tenth month of the year has been dubbed “Brocktober” around Ames.
Matt Campbell’s Cyclones are undefeated against Neal Brown’s West Virginia, taking wins in both meetings between the two coaches. Even beyond the losses, though, the scorelines haven’t been too friendly to WVU, as Brown’s teams have lost by an average of 30 points in those two meetings.
In the bigger picture, Iowa State has won the last three meetings, which snapped a streak in which the Mountaineers had won four straight between 2014 and 2017.
“I think we’re catching them playing their best football of the year,” Brown said of Iowa State. “They’re a team that gets better, and much has been said about their October record….[I have] a lot of respect for Coach Campbell and his staff have done over there.”
Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into Saturday’s matchup:
Will West Virginia keep those post-bye week improvements going?
After a rushing renaissance in 2020, production in that field took a major hit. Well, Leddie Brown and Tony Mathis did their best to dispel a lot of the criticism against he Horned Frogs, as Brown dashed for three touchdowns and the duo combined for 159 yards (not to mention Garrett Greene’s 69-yard contribution as well).
The 229 net yards the Mountaineers gained on the ground was a massive improvement over their season averages, as they ran for about 73 yards per game prior to that. Now, their average is up to 108.4.
Iowa State’s defense pose a major challenge for the Mountaineers as it ranks second in the Big 12 at stopping the run. The Cyclones even held Baylor — the top rushing attack in the Big 12 — to 123 rushing yards, almost half of the Bears’ average.
Arguably the biggest key for West Virginia came on the other side of the ball, though. WVU forced three key turnovers against TCU — two interceptions and a recovered fumble — that helped stall the Horned Frogs offensively and shut them out in the second half.
WVU looks to tack on a spooky finale to “Brocktober”
In his three seasons with the Cyclones, Purdy has seemed to give them the magic touch in October. When he’s calling the signals, Iowa State has lost just two October games — and both were by a possession. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they’ve fallen victim to this curse, taking October losses in both 2019 and 2018.
This trend is still going in 2021, as the Cyclones have won all three of their games this month, and Purdy has been playing some of the best ball of his career. He has yet to throw an interception this month, and has only had 14 incompletions in 80 pass attempts.
WVU quarterback Jarret Doege, the Big 12’s leader in passing yards, will look to match that efficiency on Saturday. In WVU’s win against TCU, he went 21-for-28 through the air for 257 yards, but without a pick or a touchdown.
No. 22 Iowa State at West Virginia game information
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET, and the game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Saturday starts, like always, with an all-new episode of The Neal Brown Show at 9 a.m. ET on Nexstar stations across West Virginia, followed by a live hour of Mountaineer GameDay at 10 a.m. ET. MGD continues at 11 a.m. ET on AT&T SportsNet.
Be sure to stick with Gold and Blue Nation for coverage on Saturday’s contest.