Heisman Hopes, Offense Collapse In WVU Loss to Iowa State
As West Virginia play-by-play broadcaster Tony Caridi would put it, “from Weirton to Welch, Martinsburg to Matewan and all points in between,” there is not a dry eye in the house.
West Virginia’s unbeaten season went down under an avalanche of sacks as Iowa State not only took the Mountaineers’ Top 10 ranking away but probably stole any chance quarterback Will Grier had at winning this year’s Heisman Trophy.
It was a humbling defeat for a team with such high aspirations, the scoreboard reading Iowa State 30, West Virginia 14, and it was far uglier than even that would have indicated.
“We didn’t do anything right,” Dana Holgorsen said. “We didn’t get off coverage. We didn’t block. We didn’t call good plays. We didn’t do anything.”
Holgorsen laid much of the blame on himself.
“We are either the hottest, best offense in the country or the slowest or worst offense in country. I don’t get it. I’ve got to fix it.”
It is almost impossible to explain away what transpired, how a freshman quarterback making his first start outplayed Grier, who certainly and deservedly stood among the top three contenders for the Heisman.
Yet that is just what Brock Purdy did. He was bold and smooth, creative in the running game, accurate in the passing game and calm and cool as WVU’s Tony Gibson brought all kinds of pressure into his face.
If the score was one-sided, the yardage was as lopsided as Georgia Tech’s all-time collegiate record of beating Cumberland, 222-0, in a game.
Would you believe that WVU gained only 152 yards, that it never had a possession last more than five plays?
How can you when you can’t convert third downs?
So smothering was this group of defenders from Iowa State that WVU was but 1-of-10 on third down opportunities, most of them from long range because Grier had been running for his life.
With safeties and linebackers spending more time in the Mountaineer backfield than their own running backs, Grier was dumped for sacks seven times.
SEVEN TIMES! Remember when seven was Grier’s lucky number?
In many ways, you could sense this coming all week, going back to the second half of the Texas Tech game and to the Kansas game where WVU, while winning, really played without an edge and, when you are going on the road to as tough a place to play as is Ames, it’s hard to regain such an edge.
Yet it seemed to sneak up on WVU.
Listen to what Holgorsen said during his Tuesday press conference.
“We’re a pretty motivated football team right now. Our guys are anxious and ready to play,” he said.
Even after the game he said he thought the team had practiced all right during the week but somewhere between Morgantown and Ames they must have lost it.
That happens sometimes. It happens to good teams, but they often find a way to get through it.
At WVU, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Think back to Pitt in 2007, more at stake, playing at home, playing a bad team, a rival… and they didn’t show up.
WVU fits far better when it is cast, even if it is just by themselves, in the underdog role.
Think Oklahoma right after the Pitt loss.
Think some of those Miami games, some of those Virginia Tech games.
It’s something that has to change about WVU, somehow they have to find the consistency that goes with being a top tier program rather than being a “tear drop” program.