116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Breaking down Saturday’s Big 12 football game between No. 22 Iowa State (5-2, 3-1) and West Virginia (3-4, 1-3).
Kickoff is 1 p.m. (CT) at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. (ESPN+).
Iowa State offense
Iowa State’s star players are playing like stars and, at this point of the season, barring injury, the expectation is that will continue.
But even though the likes of Breece Hall, Brock Purdy, Xavier Hutchinson and Charlie Kolar are playing great, Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell wants other guys to continue to emerge.
Two weeks ago, it was true freshman receiver Jaylin Noel. Campbell has his eye on another receiver to have his own breakout game.
“Darren Wilson is a guy where his day is coming,” Campbell said. “He’s played tremendous for us. What happens from a receiver standpoint is maybe you don’t get some of the production, but boy, what he’s done from a blocking, an assignment and a detail standpoint has been exceptional. He’s playing really good football.”
West Virginia offense
West Virginia has had to throw the ball a lot this season because the Mountaineers have found themselves trailing in a lot of games.
That pass-happy style has overshadowed West Virginia running back Leddie Brown. Brown is eighth in the conference with 533 rushing yards. But last season, when West Virginia was more balanced, he was second in the Big 12 with 1,010 behind Hall’s 1,572.
“It starts with an elite tailback,” Campbell said. “I mean, you're talking about a year ago, (Brown) was neck and neck with Breece for the conference rushing title. You’re talking about a young man that’s got elite vision. He’s big, powerful, strong and can really run.”
Iowa State defense
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. Iowa State has, bar none, the best defense in the Big 12. It’s nothing new, but the positive for Iowa State is no one has caught up to it.
Many people still credit Iowa State’s unique defense that defensive coordinator Jon Heacock created, but with more and more teams adopting it as their own defense, it’s becoming more common.
“Gang tackling is the key to our success,” Campbell said. “Over the last couple of years, a lot of people have talked about what we try to do schematically and really, I don’t think that’s what we’ve done the best. What we’ve done the best is the standard of our defense is 11 guys running to the football on every play. If we’re willing to do that with great consistency, then great things have the ability to happen.
“At the end of the game this past weekend, the ability to run to the football — Isheem Young running to the football to help Kym-Mani King make the stop on fourth down and then everybody else coming was a huge impact in the football game and it made a difference in the end result. Those are things that have been a blueprint for us from day one and our kids have rallied around it.”
West Virginia defense
The Mountaineers, outside of a few players like defensive lineman Dante Stills, have a young defense. They’ve given up some yardage, but are still in the top half of the league when it comes to scoring.
The Mountaineers allow just over 21 points per game, which is fourth in the Big 12.
“They’re as talented as any young team in our conference and you can tell they’re confident and they’ll be ready to roll,” Campbell said.
Iowa State-West Virginia prediction
Iowa State has the players and the better team in this matchup. The Mountaineers have been able to play close games against the likes of Oklahoma, but they’ve also lost to a bad Texas Tech team that’s already fired its coach and got beat down by Baylor.
Iowa State 34, West Virginia 21