The West Virginia Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) are looking to get back in the win column against the Iowa State Cyclones (3-2, 1-1 Big 12).
These two programs have a short history, but it has heated up in recent years with a pair of tight contests over the last two seasons. Most recently, the Cyclones upset the 6th-ranked Mountaineers in Ames behind the leadership of then-freshman Brock Purdy.
Now a sophomore, Purdy has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 while calling the signals for the high-powered Cyclone offense.
Matt Campbell is in his fourth year as the Cyclones’ head coach, and he is facing off against first-year coach Neal Brown for the first time. While Campbell has a 22-21 record in Ames, he and his staff have turned heads across the country with their multiple offensive schemes and innovative defense.
“He is in year four, and really, I’m impressed with all phases, what he’s done,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown. “From recruiting, how they’ve played, how they’ve branded themselves, I think he’s done a great job building that program.”
The all-time series between the two programs dates back to West Virginia’s entry into the Big 12, and it currently goes in favor of the Mountaineers by a margin of 5-2. The last win the Mountaineers had over the Cyclones was a 20-16 thriller in Morgantown, which saw WVU hold off a late comeback to take the victory.
If recent history holds true, though, the Mountaineers may have their hands full — Iowa State hasn’t lost a game in October (or, as they call it in Ames, “Brocktober” after Purdy) since 2017.
Purdy leads the way, Kendall looks to improve
The dual-threat Purdy is one of the best offensive weapons in the Big 12, sitting at or near the top of every statistical category for quarterbacks. Most notably putting up a Big 12-leading 1578 passing yards in five games — but he gets it done on the ground too. He’s also the top rusher on Iowa State, chipping in 264 yards and 5 touchdowns on 45 carries.
Purdy isn’t the only player West Virginia will have to look out for, as he has completed passes to 12 different teammates so far in 2019. His favorite target is senior Deshaunte Jones, who has caught the second-most passes in the Big 12 through five games.
Austin Kendall is calling the signals for the Mountaineers, and he is coming off a roller coaster game against Texas which saw him go for career highs in passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. Kendall will have his favorite target in Sam James out wide, after questions about the freshman receiver’s status loomed due to his departure from the Texas game due to injury.
On the defensive side of the ball
West Virginia will likely look to pressure Purdy with their defensive line, who has put up a Big 12 runner-up 14 sacks so far this season. That stat is boosted by the play of the Stills brothers, Darius and Dante, who have each chipped in 4 sacks.
With the departure of senior JoVanni Stewart from the program, freshman Tykee Smith will start in the secondary at spear for West Virginia. He will play alongside cornerback Keith Washington, who leads the Big 12 in passes defended and is second in interceptions (3).
Iowa State will bring their innovative defense to Morgantown, which is a variation of a 3-3-5 scheme. This iteration includes a third safety, dubbed the “star,” who mans the middle of the field. Greg Einsworth has played the star for the Cyclones, and he leads the team in tackles so far.
Where to watch
The Mountaineers kick off against the Cyclones at 4 p.m. ET, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. Be sure to follow our coverage as we provide live updates from the Stadium.