WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

BLOG: WVU-Iowa State Report Card — A solid outing

A second win of the season over a Top 25 team isn’t something that often comes in Morgantown. It’s the first time that’s happened since 2012.

This is now just the fifth time in the last 16 seasons that the Mountaineers have picked up at least two wins over ranked teams in the regular season. And it’s a win that might not have happened had it not been for multiple defensive stops in big moments.

The defense rising to the occasion at the right times will help its grade, but what about the rest of the team?

Here is the WVU report card for this week.

Offense – C+

It was great seeing Justin Crawford running healthy in the first half. His explosiveness was back, he was making good cuts, and had it not been for multiple times he being dragged down by his jersey, Crawford could’ve been well on his way to a big day.

Will Grier was efficient, just throwing five incompletions, and once again eclipsing 300 passing yards against a stingy Iowa State defense.

Receivers had a bounce-back game after a disappointing performance against Oklahoma State.

Play calling was also much improved Saturday.

Things weren’t all great on the offensive side of the ball, though. West Virginia didn’t score in the second half. Not one point.

They also left some points on the field, having to settle for field goals three times in the first half, one of which was missed. Granted Iowa State’s defense has made a habit of being a much stronger team, defensively, after halftime than before, but WVU continuing to only be truly productive on offense for one half at a time is still an issue.

Defense – B+

A goal line stand early in the third quarter ultimately made the difference.

Stuffing the Cyclones twice inside the 3-yard line, and holding them to a field goal not only kept the lead at seven for the Mountaineers instead of three, but defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said that it kept momentum on WVU’s side.

To then hold the Cyclones to a field goal in the red zone in the fourth, and then force a turnover on downs later in the period proved to be the difference in the outcome of the game as well.

The defense played well for a majority of the game. A few of the committed penalties were unnecessary. However, the Mountaineers excelled most of the game at making Kyle Kempt uncomfortable, which coming in didn’t seem to be possible.

Some points were taken away for poor tackling that, at times, aided David Montgomery on a number of his runs, allowing him to gain more yardage than he should’ve.

Overall, though, it was a good day for the defense, especially since they were shorthanded due to injuries.

Special teams – B-

Another good performance out of the special teams unit.

Billy Kinney appears to be returning to form. Two of his three punts pinned the Cyclones inside the 20-yard line, including one that was downed at the three.

Evan Staley did a fairly good job once again filling in for the injured Mike Molina, making two of three field goals.

Kickoff coverage wasn’t as good as it’s been over the past two games, but punt coverage performed well.

Linemen – B

It wasn’t a great day, statistically, for the guys in the trenches, but they graded well on the eye test.

Starting with the offensive linemen, they did a much better job at keeping Grier upright. He did have to scramble some early on, but that lessened as the game progressed. Giving up six tackles for loss isn’t great, but that isn’t all on the O-line.

Switching to defense, they only registered one sack (a huge hit by Ezekiel Rose), and only four tackles for loss were collected on the day.

However, the defensive line performed well. They were physical and, even if they themselves weren’t getting to Kempt, they were creating holes for other players to do so.

The boys up front answered the call to be more physical.

Overall – B

West Virginia played well for the most part.

This wasn’t your average Iowa State team. The Cyclones were big, physical and also quicker than some may have expected.

WVU didn’t completely succumb to the second-half let down, and overall played one of its better games of the year despite the low score.

Saturday’s contest was one that many were saying was going to decide the rest of the season for the Mountaineers, who now have good vibes entering the final three games.