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  • Road games at Iowa State are always treacherous, especially at night. The Big 12's final undefeated team learned that the hard way.
By Scooby Axson
October 13, 2018

Big 12 teams going into Ames, Iowa, have known for a while that no matter what type of season Iowa State is having, if they don’t come to Jack Trice Stadium ready to play, they will leave with a loss at the hands of the Cyclones. Just ask TCU, which came into last year’s meeting with Iowa State sporting an undefeated record and a top-10 ranking, only to post season lows in points and offensive yards in a 14–7 loss.

West Virginia entered Saturday as the only undefeated team remaining in the conference and left stripped of its confidence, as the Cyclones shut down one of the nation’s top offenses and threw the Big 12 race into a more upheaval with a 30–14 rout, marking the first time they have beaten back-to-back ranked teams in 45 years. Texas, a 23–17 winner over Baylor on Saturday, is now the Big 12’s only team without a conference loss.

Iowa State used a suffocating, swarming defense and an efficient offense to frustrate West Virginia and its (former) Heisman Trophy candidate Will Grier.

After falling behind 7–0 early, the Cyclones leaned on running back David Montgomery, who missed last week’s win over Oklahoma State with an arm injury, to put together two touchdown drives in the first quarter. The Mountaineers trailed for the first time all season season when Montgomery scored on a two-yard run that gave Iowa State a 13–7 lead. He finished with 189 yards and one touchdown, part of a season-high 498 yards of total offense for the Cyclones.

After quarterback Brock Purdy connected with Charlie Kolar for a 19-yard score, the Cyclones were driving to add more points before halftime, but Connor Assalley’s 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked by West Virginia tackle Kenny Bigelow and returned 72 yards by Derrek Pitts to cut the lead to 20–14. However, that proved to be the final time the visitors would score.

The extent of West Virginia’s offensive ineptitude was stunning; the Mountaineers came into Week 7 averaging 527 yards offense per outing and seven and a half yards per play, while Grier was third in the nation in total offense. On Saturday, they were held to 152 total yards and nine first downs and converted only one of their 10 third-down opportunities, finishing with 3.6 yards per play and 1.9 yards per carry. The Mountaineers only ran 42 offensive plays, by far the lowest total of the year and the fewest since the 2013 season.

Grier, who had been torching defenses all year, finished with only 100 passing yards and was sacked seven times. His main target, receiver David Sills V, finished with 22 yards on two catches, one of which was the team’s only offensive touchdown. Sills faced roving coverage and double teams as he and his fellow wideouts struggled to get open all night.

West Virginia’s nightmare hit its low point late in the fourth quarter, when a holding penalty in the end zone mercifully ended a flailing Grier scramble in a safety that capped the scoring.

Purdy, who came off the bench last week to spark the Cyclones to an upset of Oklahoma State, was again spectacular, going 18-of-25 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

The Mountaineers’ road to a potential Big 12 title doesn’t get any easier from here. They play a much-improved Baylor team on Oct. 25 and then finish with Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

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