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Iowa State vs WVU: Stats For Hope & Despair

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Lame-duck head coach Paul Rhodes brings his fiery and more competitive than thought to be Iowa State team to Milan Puskar Stadium this weekend. Iowa State isn't Kansas level awful but they aren't Oklahoma elite either. Let's dig into the stats to see what will be in store for the Mountaineers.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, West Virginia did what good teams do to bad teams. They score early, they score often, they generate turnovers and they don't let an inferior opponent hang around. The Mountaineers quickly generated turnovers and created points, jumping out to a 28-0 first quarter lead. An interesting tidbit of last week's game is the increase in the overall rankings for WVU on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Call it the Kansas effect, similar to the Baylor effect. When teams play the elite offenses or in this case, worst offenses and defenses, you see a substantial increase in rankings. By playing Kansas, WVU saw an increase of approximately 20 places in the rankings in one week. This late in the season, that is extremely impressive.

This week, recently fired head coach Paul Rhoads brings his 3-8 Iowa State squad to Morgantown on Senior Night. Iowa State isn't Kansas level bad but they aren't Oklahoma level elite either. You don't get to 8 losses without being bad to extremely bad in something or a lot of things. By comparison, this game also marks a full year of starting for quarterback Skyler Howard. Last season, Skyler made his first official start against these same Cyclones in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State is the first team Skyler can actually look at game film from last year and see how they attacked him specifically.

Iowa State is led by a duo of young playmakers, sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning and freshman running back Mike Warren. Combined, they have over 1600 rushing yards. Lanning was inserted as the quarterback during the 7th game of the season for Iowa State, a 45-27 loss to Baylor in Waco. After former starter Sam Richardson threw his second interception in the game and 8th of the season, Lanning was inserted midway through the second quarter. ISU hasn't looked back since. Richardson threw for 1400 yards, 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his 5.5 games as the starter quaterback  this season. Lanning, in comparison, has thrown for 1000 yards, 10 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Lanning has been a revelation for ISU.

Iowa State players often loved their head coach and he generated a lot of good vibes and good emotions for the team. Expect the team to play hard for his final game.

Stats for Hope for WVU

Team Yards Per Rush Rushing Attempts Per Game Rushing Yards Per Game
Iowa State (Defense) 4.8
39.3
190.3
West Virginia (Offense) 5.0
50.9 252.4

ev·o·lu·tion (ˌevəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/) noun: the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form

The WVU offense has evolved from a wide open spread passing attack into a power running, zone read scheme that runs the ball 50 times per game. That evolution can be traced back to the loss of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey along with the hiring of Ron Crook from Stanford


WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said Crook's being versed in the power running game will enhance the offense.

"I'm never above getting someone's input," Holgorsen said. "He brings something to the table that is different than what I've done in the past, which is interesting.

"The biggest thing is bringing in ideas, having a voice and bringing some specific things to the table."

Crook wants to combine the best of West Virginia's and Stanford's offenses.

"There's some things I think can help us and not change what we're doing," he said. "We're going to do a lot of the same things because they were good at it."

- TribLive Sports - March 27, 2013

It took a few years but finally the power running game that Crook was brought in to help implement is finally paying off. WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has made no qualms about who his team currently is. They are a team that is going to run the ball and control the clock. They will allow their quarterback to make the decision to hand it off or keep it in the running game. Iowa State is not a great run defense. The Cyclones give up 190 yards per game, which is very similar to the Texas Longhorns. Texas actually provides a tougher defense than the Cyclones. Texas only gives up 4.2 yards per rush compared to the Cyclones' 4.8, which ranks 96th. This rush yard average compares well to the 5.0 average for the Mountaineers, which ranks 23rd in the nation.

The only reason that a team with a rush defense ranked near triple digits doesn't give up more rush yards per game is when their pass defense is even worse. That is the case with Iowa State. They have a middling bad rush defense but an atrocious pass defense.

Iowa State allows teams to complete 62%+ of their passes (101st in the nation), for 8.2 yards per attempt (107) and 282 yards per game (115). This bodes well for WVU. If the run game is not working or does get stalled, the Iowa State defense is not particularly stout against the pass. Quarterback Skyler Howard is not the most accurate passer but he can be effective at times, especially on the shorter throws. Should WVU need to rely on Skyler to pass the ball to win the game, the Iowa State defense does not provide a lot of resistance.

WVU in Despair?

Team Yards Per Rush Rushing Attempts Per Game Rushing Yards Per Game
Iowa State (Offense) 4.7
42.5
201.4
West Virginia (Defense) 4.5
41.3
187.9

West Virginia has struggled this year against mobile quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield didn't produce many yards but his ability to extend plays allowed Oklahoma to complete passes when WVU had broken the first line of defense. Seth Russell exposed the defense for its inability to contain a mobile passer. Trevone Boykin escaped pressure, danced around linebackers and caught high fives from the head coach. Patrick Mahomes then showed his ability to extend plays and play backyard football.

Joel Lanning is absolutely in the same mold of these quarterbacks. In less than 6 games into his sophomore campaign, Lanning has rushed for over 300 yards on only 88 carries, an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Lanning is also extremely big. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, he resembles Texas Tech Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He is a load to bring down and will require that WVU gang tackle when he leaves the pocket.

Freshman running back Mike Warren has been a revelation for the Cyclones. At 6'0 and 200 pounds he is also a forceful player who has the ability to cut and make you miss. He has rushed for over 1200 yards at 6.1 yards per carry.  If Mike Warren is able to sustain a large rushing total and rattle off 4, 5, or 6 yards each time he touches the ball, Iowa State will be able to control the clock and tempo of the game.

Combined, Warren and Lanning have powered the Iowa State rushing attack to 31st in the nation. Since taking over as the full time starter after the 6th game of the year, Lanning has led Iowa State to an average of 209 rushing yards per game. That average isn't far above the average that Richardson led Iowa State to, but Richardson had the benefit of facing the rush defenses of Kansas and Texas Tech.

Iowa State Offense (Rank) vs WVU Defense (Rank)
Team Points Per Game Rush Yards Per Game Pass Yards Per Game 3rd Down Conversion % Total Yards Per Game Turnovers Per Game
Iowa State Offense 26.3 (75) 201.4(31) 229.2 (54) 42.33 (37) 430.6 (40) 1.9 (95)
West Virginia Defense 25.7 (51) 186.6 (84) 221.7 (55) 32.35 (16) 408.2 (67) 2.9 (1)

Iowa State Defense (Rank) vs WVU Offense (Rank)
Team Points Per Game Rush Yards Per Game Pass Yards Per Game 3rd Down Conversion % Total Yards Per Game Turnovers Per Game
Iowa State Defense 35.5(98) 190.0 (88) 282.4 (116) 50.35 (123) 472.4 (109) 1.0 (113)
West Virginia Offense 33.9 (43) 252.4 (8) 215.7 (67) 38.3 (71) 468.1 (22) 2.0 (102)