West Virginia vs. Iowa State score: Mountaineers turn in worst performance of 2018 in awful loss
The Mountaineers had their worst offensive showing of the season in a loss to the Cyclones
Week 7 of the college football season had an upset feel to it, but no top-10 was exposed like No. 6 West Virginia. The Mountaineers mustered just one offensive touchdown in a 30-14 dismantling at the hands of Iowa State.
It's a sobering loss for a team that had Big 12 Championship Game hopes, though there's a ton of work to do before the Mountaineers seem ready for that stage. Dana Holgorsen's team had just 147 yards of offense at 3.3 yards per play. Defensively, West Virginia needs the upcoming off week to get healthy and recalibrate. What does it all mean? Here are the takeaways from a big night in Ames.
West Virginia, of all teams, has major offensive problems
Write this two months ago and you'd be laughed at. Now? It's a different story. We'll get to West Virginia's offensive woes on Saturday in a second, but first, understand that this has been a couple of games in the making. The Mountaineers let off the gas against Texas Tech in Week 5, but was shutout offensively in the second half all the same. Against Kansas, Will Grier had three end zone interceptions.
Which leads to this: the Mountaineers have now been held without an offensive touchdown in five quarters in the past three games. With a quarterback like Grier and one of the better wide receiver units in the country, that can't happen. But if you can't block up front, then it probably doesn't matter who the skill guys are. But unlike in the previous two games, Iowa State had the perfect defense. It usually showed a four-or-five-man box and dropped a bunch of players into coverage while keeping a spy in the middle level for run support. The Cyclones dared West Virginia to run (it couldn't) while taking away every deep option from Grier. This was a bad matchup for West Virginia from the start, but there are deep-rooted problems that Holgorsen needs to figure out moving forward (and whether offensive coordinator Jake Spavital is a part of those plans).
That includes Grier
Grier is not blameless in West Virginia's problems. It's not his fault that the Cyclones had blanket coverage on his wideouts all evening. It is, however, the former Heisman candidate's responsibility to not contribute to negative plays. Iowa State routinely rushed three players, but got to Grier on a number of occasions. Coverage sacks happen, but one of Grier's weaknesses is his refusal to live to fight another down. Sometimes this manifests in him forcing throws he shouldn't. Sometimes it shows up in him holding the ball for too long. He had a few of those plays on Saturday. On one occasion, he stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball away. Another time, he tried to make a play happen outside the end zone and came dangerously close to losing the ball. Iowa State got a safety anyway.
Grier, through it all, only attempted 15 passes, which almost doesn't seem real. But it shows how well Iowa State had things covered downfield and how little he was make anything work.
Brock Purdy looks like the real deal
The Cyclones had the Big 12's worst offense until Purdy took the field in Week 6 against Oklahoma State. Now with two games under his belt, it's a different story. Iowa State is averaging 468 yards over the past two games. Purdy did a nice job evading tackles in the backfield -- West Virginia's plan was to bring a ton of pressure -- and keeping his eyes downfield to make big-time, confident throws like this one ...
That's a tight window to throw into, but Purdy has been making those plays. Now that running back David Montgomery is back, Iowa State's offense looks way more formidable.
Iowa State is a Big 12 team to watch
A couple of early conference losses will probably hold the Cyclones back from making the Big 12 title game, but this looks like a different team than the one in September. The remaining schedule is favorable, though. There are only two road games -- at Kansas and at Texas -- and one top-25 team, the Longhorns. Through four games, Iowa State had the look of a team that maybe was going to end up bowl eligible. Now it looks like it can match last year's eight-win effort.
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