WVU football: Iowa State flying high entering visit to WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Neither West Virginia nor Iowa State is going anywhere, but the teams are headed in different directions before Saturday's season finale.
The Cyclones ended a seven-game losing streak with a 34-0 win Saturday at home against Kansas. They're 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the Big 12 entering Saturday's 4 p.m. game at Mountaineer Field. It will be televised by Fox Sports 1.
"That meant a lot," Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads said. "It was a huge victory. Anytime you're sitting there with zero conference wins, any time you're in the midst of a long losing streak like we were, any time you get a chance to get a victory for your seniors in their last home game and you do it and you get it done means a great deal to everyone involved internally and externally."
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, are coming off a 31-19 loss to the same Kansas team Iowa State dominated and the same Kansas team that had lost 27 consecutive Big 12 games before thumping WVU (4-7, 2-6 Big 12), which apparently wasn't over the 47-40 overtime loss to Texas a week earlier.
"The Texas game beat us twice," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We talked about it not happening, but it did. Why? You can keep pointing your finger at me. That's what my job is and I didn't reach them. I didn't get them back. That's on me and I don't mind saying that."
The players and coaches soldiered through practice last week, knowing there was no bowl bid waiting on the other end of a second straight Thanksgiving weekend game against the Cyclones. Practice last week was structured in a way that rested regulars and developed young and infrequently used players.
The Cyclones, meanwhile, have been dealing with their reality longer. Their seventh loss came Nov. 2.
"Our football team is excited about playing," Rhoads said. "We're coming off a nice win and we have a chance to finish the season on a really positive note. That's good for the departing seniors and good for us heading into the offseason. I think that gives folks enough excitement to prepare for the next game."
Holgorsen walked into last week uncertain what to expect from a team that had just surprised him with what it showed at Kansas.
"It was the first time all year we didn't play with the effort and energy that it takes to win the game," he said. "There have been losses where I was comfortable with the loss because it didn't have anything to do with the effort. When we lose because of the effort, that's when I get frustrated, and for the first time I saw it (against Kansas)."
He believes the practices last week were therapeutic and the time players were given to themselves over the weekend while the coaches were out recruiting will help bring them back to where they need to be to finish the first losing season since 2001.
"I hope so," he said. "I haven't shied away from it and ultimately it falls on my shoulders to make sure that happens," Holgorsen said. "We didn't get the job done against Kansas for a variety of reasons we addressed, and we've moved on and did what we felt we needed to do from a health point of view and a development point of view, and we'll do our absolute best to try to prepare to win this week."
Holgorsen said the time off helped shrink the list of injured players, though safety Darwin Cook, right tackle Curtis Feigt, linebacker Isaiah Bruce and cornerback Daryl Worley are questionable. Cook and Feigt are among the 12 seniors who will play their last college game before what figures to be an unusually small home crowd.
Running back Charles Sims, who transferred before this season from the University of Houston, is the only player who wasn't on the 2011 team that won the Big East and the Orange Bowl and then transitioned to the Big 12. The Mountaineers are 11-13 overall and 6-11 in the Big 12 since.
Sims, nose guard Shaq Rowell and linebacker Dozie Ezemma, who was lost for the season to an injury in the first game, are the only seniors who weren't recruited by the previous coaching staff and a part of the coaching change.
"They've given a lot to the program and they've seen a lot of changes, but their attitude has been phenomenal," Holgorsen said. "It's the last time some of these guys will play football and the last time all of them will play on Mountaineer Field. They deserve to have everyone do their best to try to get the win.
"You're playing for pride. Shoot, you're playing a Big 12 football game. Get out there and have fun with it. Playing this time of year, there's nothing easy about it. You're dealing with specific elements. There are no secrets about the schemes out there. It's about going out there and playing, and whoever plays hardest and whoever plays with the most fight and effort gets a win. Hopefully that'll be us."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.