Mountaineers Meet Iowa State in Season Finale
MORGANTOWN – Not long after Paul Rhoads finally thawed out from the coldest game in the history of Iowa State’s home stadium, the Cyclones’ coach recalled a night eight years ago at West Virginia that was more bone chilling.
Rhoads was Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator when the Panthers played in the Backyard Brawl in blustery snow and single-digit readings on a Thanksgiving night.
“The coldest game that I’ve ever coached was in Morgantown in 2005, Pitt-West Virginia,” Rhoads recalled. “That one was colder because the wind that was blowing that night.”
Still, Rhoads said last week’s 34-0 victory against Kansas was cold enough. The game started in 8-degree conditions and kept getting worse, and Rhoads said the win that snapped a seven-game losing streak has mentally prepared Iowa State (2-9, 1-7 Big 12) for its first visit to West Virginia (4-7, 2-6) on Saturday.
Rhoads is best known to West Virginia fans as the architect of the Pitt defense that stopped the Mountaineers’ march to the national championship game in December 2007. The Panthers held West Virginia to 183 yards and nine first downs and upset the then-second ranked Mountaineers 13-9.
Rhoads’ most recent trip to Morgantown was as Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2008, when the Tigers lost to West Virginia 34-17.
West Virginia is coming off a bye week after losing at last-place Kansas 31-19 two weeks ago, which broke the Jayhawks’ 27-game conference losing streak.
“We don’t want to lose to back-to-back teams at the bottom of the Big 12,” said West Virginia linebacker Doug Rigg.
Here are five things to watch for when the Cyclones and Mountaineers play in their regular-season finale:
REVOLVING QBS: West Virginia has endured a season-long shuffle at quarterback that will live another day on Saturday. Clint Trickett suffered a concussion in a Nov. 9 overtime loss at Texas and missed the next game at Kansas but has been cleared to play against Iowa State. He’s started five games. Paul Millard has three starts and Ford Childress two. Coach Dana Holgorsen hasn’t named a starter for this week but said Childress isn’t ready to return from a chest muscle injury.
READY ROHACH: Iowa State redshirt freshman Grant Rohach is due to make his fourth straight start. He’s coming off a season-high 300 yards passing against Kansas. “I think it’s a huge confidence boost, especially in the way the guys on the offense played – the receivers making great catches, the o-line protected flawlessly throughout that whole game,” Rohach said.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: West Virginia saw its 11-year streak of going to a bowl game end with the Kansas loss. The Mountaineers will finish with their worst record since going 3-8 in 2001, which was Rich Rodriguez’s first season as coach. Holgorsen is 21-16 in three seasons. Rhoads will have his worst record in five years as Iowa State’s coach. Under him the Cyclones went to bowls in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
BYE-BYE SENIORS: Saturday marks the last regular-season game for 21 seniors at Iowa State and 14 at West Virginia. Mountaineers safety Darwin Cook, who is questionable with a groin injury, has played in 49 games with 34 starts, both team highs. “I can’t miss this senior game,” Cook said. “I’m hurting, but you can’t miss the game.” Cyclones safety Deon Broomfield is appearing in his 50th game and safety Jacques Washington is making his 38th start.
DEFENSIVE WOES: West Virginia and Iowa State rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in several defensive categories. Iowa State is last in points (39) and rushing yards (243) allowed per game. The Mountaineers have the worst pass defense at 291 yards and total defense at 503. Iowa State is next-to-last in total defense at 473 yards. A positive on defense for West Virginia has been its 22 forced turnovers, second to Oklahoma State’s 24.