WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

WVU PASS OFFENSE VS IOWA STATE PASS DEFENSE

West Virginia had one of its best passing days in terms of production last week against Texas, but did throw four interceptions. The good news for WVU is freshman Sam James, the team’s leading receiver, is expected to play after leaving the Texas game with an injury. For Iowa State, senior safety Lawrence White is a tackling machine and has one interception and three pass break-ups so far this season.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

IOWA STATE PASS OFFENSE VS. WVU PASS DEFENSE

Cylcone quarterback Brock Purdy has been very good this season. The sophomore is on the short list of the Big 12’s best quarterbacks with 356.2 total yards per game and a league leading 315.6 passing yards per game. West Virginia has been decent against the pass despite depth issues in the secondary. Senior cornerback Keith Washington leads the conference in passes defended and is second in the Big 12 with three interceptions.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

WVU RUSH OFFENSE VS. IOWA STATE RUSH DEFENSE

The Mountaineers have not been able to establish much of a run game yet in game this season, though sophomore running back Leddie Brown has had some success moving the ball with a team-leading 5.2 yards per carry on just 25 attempts. Iowa State ranks third in the Big 12 in rush defense, allowing 113.6 yards per game. Cyclone linebackers are making a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, led by sophomore O’Rien Vance 6.5 tackles for a loss.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

IOWA STATE RUSH OFFENSE VS. WVU RUSH DEFENSE

Purdy leads ISU in rushing with 203 yards and five touchdowns as the Cyclones continues to break in new featured running back Johnnie Lang, a sophomore. The Cyclones rank 8th in the conference at 159.6 rushing yards per game. West Virginia, meanwhile, is 7th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 181.2 yards per game. Junior defensive lineman Darius Stills is tied for 3rd in the Big 12 with 8.5 tackles for a loss this season.

EDGE: WEST VIRGINIA

SPECIAL TEAMS

West Virginia kicker Evan Staley’s up and down season continued in last week’s loss to Texas with two missed field goal attempts. Punter Josh Growden, however, has been very good with nine punts landing inside opponents’ 20 yard line. Iowa State kicker Conor Assaley is a perfect 23 of 23 on extra point attempts and has connected on 7 of 10 field goal attempts, with a long of 42 for the season.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

INTANGIBLES

Neal Brown and West Virginia had everything they wanted off the field working in their favor last week against Texas but still came up short against the Longhorns. Mountaineer fans will likely be out in full force again when Iowa State visits, but the home crowd only counts for so much. ISU coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones haven’t been the same team away from Ames this season, but they don’t lose games in October — at least not in recent seasons.

EDGE: IOWA STATE

West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown cleared up the injury status of redshirt freshman Sam James during his Thursday evening radio show.

James, who left last week’s loss to Texas after hitting his head and neck hard on the Milan Puskar Stadium turf, is expected to play on Saturday when the Mountaineers host Big 12 rival Iowa State (4 p.m. on ESPN)

“Unless something changes in the next couple days, Sam will play,” Brown said.

James has been West Virginia’s top receiver so far in 2019 with 32 receptions for 329 yards and two touchdowns, including one prior to his exit against Texas.

“I’m excited about Sam this Saturday and for the next few years,” Brown said “I see him maturing before our eyes as a football player and a person. I think he’s going to be a big-time player.”

West Virginia will be on national television against a Big 12 powerhouse again when the Mountaineers take on Oklahoma next week.

WVU’s Oct. 19 game will kickoff at noon and be televised on Fox.

(photo by Sean McNamara)

West Virginia’s young receiving corps might be a bit thinner next week when the Mountaineers host Iowa State.

Freshman Sam James left Saturday’s loss to Texas following the final play of the third quarter and did not return. WVU coach Neal Brown said James’ injury was, “a bit of an upper-[body] injury” and would be addressed in more detail at Brown’s Tuesday press conference in Morgantown. Against Texas, James finished with six catches for 66 yards and one touchdown.

Sophomore Sean Ryan, a transfer from Temple, could be out for a while. Ryan, who had five receptions for 70 yards on Saturday, came down hard while hauling in a 39-yard pass in the fourth quarter and return to the field after. Brown did not get into the specific details of Ryan’s injury, but indicated the receiver will likely miss some time.

“Sean, it doesn’t look good,” Brown said. “I hate it for him, because he played really well. He had his best week of practice and a really good bye week. But it looks like he’ll be out for a few weeks.”

WVU PASS OFFENSE VS. TEXAS PASS DEFENSE

West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall will need some help from his receivers this week against the Longhorns after WVU coach Neal Brown called out his pass catchers for a poor performance two weeks ago at Kansas. Texas, meanwhile, has been hit hard by injuries in its secondary, but should get hard-hitting safety B.J. Foster back this week.

EDGE: TEXAS

TEXAS PASS OFFENSE VS. WVU PASS DEFENSE

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger has the Texas offense rolling and is making few mistakes, with 15 touchdown passes this season compared to just one interception. The Mountaineers have been pretty good at limiting big plays in the passing game so far this season other than one notable breakdown at Kansas, but senior cornerback Keith Washington and the WVU secondary should have their hands full Saturday.

EDGE: TEXAS

WVU RUN OFFENSE VS TEXAS RUN DEFNSE

The Mountaineers had their best game on the ground last time out against Kansas, led by a two-touchdown effort from senior running back Martell Pettaway. Texas has faces some solid offenses so far in Louisiana State and Oklahoma State and held its own in defending the run. Longhorn defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham leads the team with 4.5 tackles for a loss and as a team, Texas ranks fourth in the Big 12 at 122 rushing yards allowed per game.

EDGE: TEXAS

TEXAS RUN OFFENSE VS. WVU RUN DEFENSE

UT has not been great on the ground in 2019, but sophomore running back Keontay Ingram and Ehlinger can still be a handful for defenses to account for on in the run game. WVU allows 172.5 rushing yards per game — seventh best in the Big 12. The defensive line has been a strong point for West Virginia this season, led in part by what Brown called “big plays” from sophomore Dante Stills.

EDGE: WVU

SPECIAL TEAMS

Texas has been on of the Big 12’s best on special teams so far this season, with a kickoff return for a touchdown as well as a 57-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker on the resume through four games. West Virginia has been OK on special teams. Kicker Evan Staley is 6 of 9 of field goal attempts this season, punter Josh Growden has been a nice addition to the WVU roster and the Mountaineers have blocked a field goal and a punt this season.

EDGE: TEXAS

INTANGIBLES

This is one of those classic “on paper” football games where one team, Texas and coach Tom Herman in this case, appears to have every reason in the world to win. The Mountaineers do have some things working in their favor — Neal Brown helped lead Troy to wins against several “blue blood” programs of UT’s ilk at his previous stop and after the way the 2018 game went there will likely be nearly 60,000 WVU fans present with a morning and early afternoon’s worth of tailgating in their system.

EDGE: WVU