Schedule Break Doesn’t Materialize For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Ah, just what the doctor ordered for West Virginia’s belabored football team.
And even when they lose, they make it tough. On Monday, Mike Gundy, the Oklahoma State coach who found a way for his team to outmuscle the Mountaineers on Saturday, said that when WVU scored two quick second-half touchdowns to draw within a score, the stadium was the loudest he’d ever been in.
The joint was rocking, Charles Hayes dancing, the backup Mountaineer “mountaineering.”
But WVU lost to the Cowboys and now needs to get rolling again so it can be sure it’s off to a bowl in the near future.
Enter Iowa State.
You know Iowa State. The last four seasons, the Cylclones were 3-9, 2-10, 3-9 and 3-9.
The last three times they played WVU, the Mountaineers won each, outscoring Iowa State, 116-49.
No sweat, right?
What’s that? This isn’t the Iowa State that WVU has seen all that time?
There’s a new sheriff in town, goes by the handle of Matt Campbell and if things go the way they usually do in matters like this, he won’t be there long.
No, he won’t get fired for losing, but rather hired for winning.
Campbell took overa this losing program a year-and-a-half ago, and this week has the Cyclones ranked No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 16 in the Coaches poll.
Iowa State stands at 6-2 and that is miracle enough to get a school like Tennessee or its equivalent to come sniffing, but it also owns upset victories over No. 3 Oklahoma (on the road) and No. 4 TCU.
The four game-win streak the Cyclones bring to Milan Puskar Stadium includes those two stunning victories, victories in which they have given up only 51 points … or one more than the Mountaineers gave up to Oklahoma State.
It’s almost like this is a break in ISU’s schedule with Oklahoma State looming the following week.
The Oklahoma game was a crazy 38-31 triumph in Norman, satisfying, yes, but hardly as much as topping TCU at home, where thousands of fans crammed the field post game, enveloping their team with love.
“I think that’s what makes Iowa State special,” Campbell said Monday on the Big 12 coaches conference call. “I’ve said since I’ve been here it’s the fan base. They stuck with this program through some tough times.
“To be able to have success on home turf in front of home fans was fantastic. It was thrilling to watch our fans and our kids celebrate. The seniors in our program have been through so many tough times, it was rewarding, for sure.”
You almost can’t imagine what transpired in Ames. The local Taco Bell was besieged by so many fans that it couldn’t accommodate everyone.
Now comes the tough part, of course. It’s easy to sneak up on someone and pull off an occasional upset, a lot harder to find yourself as the hunted.
The Cyclones have everyone’s attention now.
Campbell believes they are ready for it because they have not changed a thing.
“The good thing about us is we haven’t changed our approach in the year and a half here,” Campbell said. “That has allowed us to have sucess and to have continued success and work through some of the tough failures we’ve had for the last year and a half. We don’t worry about anything but what goes on between our walls.”
There has grown a certain confidence that is carrying this one-time undermanned losing program.
“This team earned its confidence in those months when nobody was watching them. In January and February and March and April and May. That’s where our team earned its confidence in its ability,” Campbell explained.
“You have to eventually translate that confidence in our sport into winning games. As we’ve won and had success it has only ensured how we’ve had success. We are playing really good team football,” Campbell continued.
“The thing that’s rewarding to me is to watch our kids. I said this last week and I will continue to say it — confidence is something you have to earn weekly. It’s something you do on the practice field and how you study the game of football.”
So, yeah, it’s time to play Iowa State, but nobody is looking at this matchup the way they have in the past.