PRE-GAME RUN THRU: CYCLONE EDITION
by: Brandon Priddy : @abpriddy
Welcome to the PRE-GAME RUN THRU – not to be confused with a “walk-through.” You don’t have time for that and neither does Coach Holgorsen! We’re hitting you with info as fast as you can take it…..we want TEMPO, TEMPO, TEMPO! Let’s get it rolling!!!
Alright folks, this one is going to be pretty short. Between the truncated week and a little holiday travel, time has been crunched so we’re going to distill this whole thing down to a few important points that you need going into the game on Friday afternoon.
By this point in the season things are pretty simply anyway. This WVU team is what it is and there are no mysteries. Their defensive line has become serviceable (although it can’t seem to get any quarterback pressure) and at times very good against the run. The secondary is atrocious. The offense is back on track and can score with anyone in America and unfortunately with the defense they’re paired with it sometimes still isn’t enough.
Nothing you see is terribly impressive with this Iowa State defense, although while they allow 442.1 yards per game (95th nationally) they interestingly only allow 22.6 points per game – good enough for 30th nationally and 3rd in the scoring-rich Big 12. If you look at a couple sets of stats this starts to make sense.
First the Cyclones are 109th nationally in plays of 10 or more yards allowed, but as you move up their ranking improves: they’re 84th for plays of 20 or more yards, 76th for plays of 30 or more, 51st for plays of 40 or more and 45th for plays of 50 or more (only 5 allowed all year, nearly half of WVU’s 9). That’s the first set of stats.
Next take a look at their red zone defense. In 43 trips into the red zone they’ve allowed scores 76.7% of the time, good for 30th nationally. But of that only 53.5% of those trips have been touchdowns – good for 40th nationally. So what you’re seeing is a team that gives up a lot of yards between the 20s and maybe even 10s, but when push comes to shove they don’t give up a lot of touchdowns – either up close in the red zone or long plays.
The Mountaineers need to finish drives in the end zone and don’t be surprised if they end up in a situation they’ve seen several times this year and saw 3 times against Oklahoma – 4th down short yardage in the red zone. Once they kicked a 19 yard field goal, once they scored from the 1 and the last time they turned it over on downs at the 14. Whether or not they can find ways to get that yard could very well determine if they break this 5 game losing streaks.
Speaking of those short yardage 4th down situations, here’s hoping Dana Holgorsen isn’t afraid to get a little creative – or at least do something other than run it up the gut. While they were basically 1 for 1 in the red zone against the Sooners going with Andrew Buie, I couldn’t help but think if they can get the ball to Tavon Austin in space he can find a way to get that yard – I just can’t get that spectacular 4 yard touchdown run he had on 3rd and goal out of my head.
WVU Too Shall Pass (We Hope)
The biggest thing that jumps out looking at Iowa State’s defensive numbers is their pass D. They’re giving up 283.6 yards per game to rank 113th nationally – with the return of Super Stedman and Geno knocking specks of dust off gnats asses at 30 yards again, you have to think that bodes well for the Mountaineers. But it quickly begs the question that if Tavon Austin truly is going to see more time in the backfield, can one of the other guys emerge for a big day? We’ve been waiting on Jordan Thompson to break out – this may be his big day to get some more looks in the slot. All eyes will be on Tavon, so the opportunity will be there.
Speaking of Mr. Austin, don’t look for him to get 30 carries – I’d expect something more in the 15 range, 20 tops (he had 21 against Oklahoma). Holgorsen talked a lot about the fear of wearing him down because of his “body type” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him line up in the backfield a good bit but not necessarily get the ball. Play action became effective against the Sooners in the second half – the last 3 touchdowns for the ‘eers against Oklahoma were all passes to Bailey and the last 2 of those were play-action. With all the attention Austin is sure to get in the Cyclone’s preparations, I would expect to see the play action early.
Cutting Their Teeth
For the fourth time this year WVU will face a green signal caller in Iowa State’s Sam Richardson, who will be making only his second career start on Friday. Maryland’s Perry Hills, TCU’s Trevone Boykin and Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf all entered their contests against WVU with 4 or fewer starts under their belts (it was Chelf’s first). Unfortunately for the Mountaineers none of the trio had any trouble tossing off the training wheels and finding success as the fewest yards thrown for was Boykin’s 254 and all threw for multiple touchdowns. Can the much-maligned WVU D finally exploit an inexperienced QB? We’ll see.
It’s a little absurd to talk about, but why not. As of today, Tavon Austin stands at 2,312 all-purpose yards. The NCAA record is Barry Sanders’ insane 3,250 yards in his 1988 Heisman season at Oklahoma State. If you do the math Tavon would need 938 more yards, or a little over 312 per game for his next 3 if WVU can make a bowl (he’s averaged 231 per game for the first 10). Is that possible, sure. Likely? I highly doubt it. But Sander’s season was off the charts – it’s a testament to how amazing Tavon has been that we can even have a (semi) serious conversation about it.
Great video here – no surprise because Doug always does a great job with these – but check it out.
The guys over at “Wide Right & Natty Lite,” Iowa State’s SB Nation site, do great work. You should definitely check this out.
Makes the 22.6 a game in the Big 12 all the more impressive when you consider how many plays they’re defending.
Again underscores the point – they see a lot of plays and give up a lot of yards but find a way to keep you off the scoreboard. I’m nervous already.
AWESOME! MORE WIND!! GOOD TIMES!!!
Well, like I said this was going to be short so hope you enjoyed it and be sure to join us early next week for THE WATER COOLER where hopefully we can re-hash a friggin' win for the first time in a month and a half. Until then warm yourselves with the thought that at least you're not a Hokie - bad time of year to be a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the game!
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to hit me up with ideas or suggestions on how to make these pre and post-game wrap ups better and more informative. We’re here for you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter: @abpriddy. I tweet throughout the game and love a little back-and-forth. Also check out some more of my work over at SmokingMusket.com where I was fortunate enough to become one of the newest staff writers.