KnowDan from over at Wide Right & Natty Lite was kind enough to answer some questions for us before this weekend's Riot Bowl matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones.
WVUIE97: It's obviously been a tough year for both of our teams, but how much are you looking forward to this weekend's edition of the Riot Bowl?
KnowDan: Winning cures a lot of things and unfortunately I think I have been pulled into that optimistic trap of believing this team could win two in a row to build some momentum for the off season. Then I wake up in a cold sweat and realize the game is in Morgantown and teams just don't walk in there and expect to win. Realistically I am looking forward more to watching the final game of the season and moving on. I will admit that I am jealous of my fellow WRNL staffers and friends who are making the trip. Again, winning just kind of messes with the mind.
WVUIE97: ISU has had their fair share of offensive struggles this season, but was able to get on track against Kansas last week. What changed? Was it a personnel change or was it something else?
KnowDan: There was better execution on both sides of the ball against Kansas, but at the end of the day they were still playing Kansas. The play calling did not change much but the offensive line is starting to gel after finally having the same starting line up for two games in a row (this is not a joke), and carried over their rushing attack from the first half of the Oklahoma game. Defensively, coordinator Wally Burnham dared Montell Cozart to throw the ball deep and he couldn't do it on a cold and icy field. At that point it became about stopping James Sims and that was it.
Against Kansas the past two years we have seen our "quarterback of the future" emerge so I am taking the win with a grain of salt. Happy for the seniors who had big days, but there's really not much to take from the victory other than relief.
WVUIE97: We spoke about this during the podcast a bit, but the Cyclones have had five games decided by 8 points or less. The results were disappointing, but have you guys had the feeling that this team was "that close" all year, or was it a more pessimistic point of view?
KnowDan: This team was close against Texas and TCU and that's about it. I only say that because those were the two games where they held leads going into the final possession and let it slip away. Against Northern Iowa the team should have been able to rally around two early second half turnovers but failed to do so. The defense manned up until on long play undid all their progress. Iowa let the offense back in the game by moving away from the blitz in the 4th quarter, and Texas Tech was really only close because of a kick return for a touchdown and a garbage time touchdown.
Could those games go the other way next year? Sure, but there were so many other factors at play that just improvement in the 4th quarter won't be enough to flip the script in 2014.
WVUIE97: Which quarterback should we expect to see this weekend? What do each one bring to the table?
KnowDan: Grant Rohach will be the go to guy with some silly timed doses of Sam Richardson sprinkled in. Rohach isn't as strong of a runner as Sam and the zone read is all but removed from the play book when he's in. The jury is out if he is as good of a passer but he has improved in that area each and every week the last month and reports out of practice is he likes to get gunslingy when his confidence picks up. After a 300 yard, two touchdown performance against Kansas last week I would not be surprised to see him try to duplicate the effort this weekend. Sam will likely come in when the ball is inside the 10 yard line as an option to run and more than likely burn a timeout as the play call fails to get in from the sideline.
WVUIE97: Vegas has somehow decided on a 8 point spread in favor of WVU. Given we beat OSU and lost to Kansas, we don't know what to expect. How do you see the game playing out?
KnowDan: West Virginia's aggressiveness on defense is the exact type of style that has stymied this offense all year. Things are improving as the line gets healthy but I still have zero confidence in offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham putting together four quarters of a solid gameplan. I would expect to see Iowa State rush out to an early lead but completely and utterly fall apart in the second half on offense, sell the defense out because of it, and West Virginia to score late enough to pull out the victory 20-17.
Thanks again to KnowDan for answering these questions for us. Be sure to check out Wide Right & Natty Lite for more great coverage of Iowa State.