WVU Football Notebook
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Freshman running back Breece Hall finished with career highs in carries (26) and yardage (132) and scored his first three touchdowns to lead Iowa State past West Virginia 38-14 Saturday. Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy continued to work his way up the Cyclones’ record book with 229 yards passing and two touchdowns – one running, one throwing.
But don’t look for WVU defensive lineman Reese Donahue to start slinging the superlatives about his opponents after the loss. It’s not that Donahue disrespects the players or doesn’t appreciate the performances. The senior is just experienced enough to know that great players are hardly oddities on the Mountaineers’ schedule.
“It’s not like it stops next week,” Donahue said, referring to WVU’s road contest against Oklahoma. “Last week it was (Texas quarterback) Sam Ehlinger. This week it was Brock Purdy. Next week it’s (Sooners’ quarterback) Jalen Hurts.
“I’m the first person who will give credit where credit is due. I’ll do that 100 percent. But all the teams we face have great talent in the backfield and have fine quarterbacks. It’s us and we have to fix us.”
Hall amassed 77 of his yards and two TDs in the second half to help the Cyclones snap a 14-14 halftime tie. His success was key in Iowa State’s holding a decided edge in possession time (36:11-23:49), including a 20:37-9:23 advantage in the second half.
Conventional wisdom and even WVU coach Neal Brown suggested that the Cyclones’ continued success on the ground wore down WVU’s defense. But Donahue didn’t think that was necessarily the case.
“That stuff doesn’t typically bother us,” he said. “Our practices prepare us for games like that so it shouldn’t matter.”
So what was the key to Iowa State’s success? Partly great athletes and partly lack of execution by the Mountaineers, Donahue believes.
“We stopped playing well as a team,” he said. “It’s not an effort issue. It’s just some little things we’re doing wrong are catching up with us now.”
Indeed, inconsistency is what separates 4-2 Iowa State from 3-3 WVU, linebacker Josh Chandler said.
Iowa State, he said, “is a good team. We have the ability to be a good team. But they made plays and we didn’t.”
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STATS LIE: WVU sacked Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy three times in what would seem to be a win for the Mountaineers.
Not so, says coach Neal Brown.
“We had a hard time getting pressure, they did a really good job,” he said. “We tried to blitz, we tried to drop eight. They cut us a bunch in our blitz stuff. We didn’t do a very good job playing those cut blocks.”
The Mountaineers entered the game second in the Big 12 and 30th nationally with 14 sacks on the year.
UNLIKELY HERO: There was 12:20 left to play and Iowa State seemingly had control of the game, but only led 21-14.
Coach Matt Campbell had gone for it two times on fourth down and succeeded twice. But faced with a fourth-and-three at the WVU 28, Campbell changed his approach and opted for a 45-yard field goal.
Freshman kicker Brayden Narveson came through with his first field goal on his first attempt. The kick gave the Cyclones breathing room, 24-14.
“All the training from my teammates and my coaches paid off,” Narveson said. “It’s the same kick I hit every day in practice, nothing changes. The fans are loud but it’s the same kick.”
West Virginia and Iowa State met for the eighth time on Saturday. WVU is now 5-3 all-time against the Cyclones.
Freshman cornerback Nicktroy Fortune, redshirt freshman tight end Mike O’Laughlin and redshirt freshman wide receiver Bryce Wheaton earned their first career starts against the Cyclones. Twenty-one Mountaineers have earned their first career start at WVU this season. Fortune is the third true freshman to start for WVU this season. Cornerback Tae Mayo and defensive lineman Jalen Thornton became the seventh and eighth
freshman to see action for the Mountaineers this season.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lowe III played his first career snap in the fourth quarter. Twenty-two Mountaineers have made their Old Gold and Blue debuts this season.
Redshirt senior offensive lineman Colton McKivitz made his team-leading 41st career start against Iowa State. He moved into a five-way tie for No. 6 for the most starts in program history (John Thornton (1995-98), Kyle Kayden (1997-2001), Ryan Stanchek (2005-2008) and Scooter Berry
Redshirt defensive lineman Quondarius Qualls registered a sack in the first quarter, marking the second straight game he has recorded a sack.
Freshman safety Tykee Smith intercepted the first pass of his career in the first quarter and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. It marked the first touchdown of his career.
West Virginia has now scored a defensive touchdown in nine consecutive seasons and has returned an interception for a touchdown in seven consecutive seasons.
Smith’s pick-six also was the first interception returned for a touchdown since Keith Washington II’s 51-yard return at Texas Tech on Sept. 29, 2018.
The Mountaineers have now registered an interception in seven of the last 10 games.
Redshirt junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons caught a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter, marking his second of the season. It also marked redshirt junior quarterback Jack Allison’s first touchdown pass of the year.
Cornerback Tae Mayo and defensive Jalen Thornton became the seventh freshman to see action for the Mountaineers this season after playing in his first snap in the third quarter.
Redshirt senior Josh Growden registered a career-long 62-yard punt in the third quarter, marking the longest punt since Nov. 15, 2011, against Pitt (Corey Smith).
WVU held Iowa State to 229 passing yards and has held its opponents to than 300 yards passing in 38 of the last 50 games.
West Virginia has held its opponents to fewer than 300 yards passing in all six games this season.
Redshirt senior Josh Norwood led the team with 10 total tackles, marking the second straight game he has registered at least 10 tackles.