MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What was West Virginia’s secret to beating Iowa State?
Scoring its fewest points all season wasn’t part of the plan (though in this case it worked), but playing a tougher brand of football was. In the runup week of practices, coach Dana Holgorsen demanded more contact sessions in an effort to restore his guys’ mean streak.
“Practice was like the olds days when I was up at the University of Michigan. We banged every day, we hit every day, and we definitely made a statement that we need to get tougher up front,” said offensive guard Kyle Bosch.
“We had a lot of fighting, a lot of scrums that happened in practice, but it was intentional to get us in a tougher mindset.”
Though Holgorsen cited a team-wide need to get tougher, Bosch and the offensive line sensed they were at the heart of the physicality campaign. West Virginia’s running game had lagged for three games before Saturday’s grind-it-out philosophy produced 208 yards on 47 carries in a 20-16 win over the Cyclones.
“Against Oklahoma State, we made a mockery of our brand and made a mockery of our program,” Bosch said. “We pride ourselves on being able to run the ball — that’s what Coach Holgorsen has preached the last couple years. It was important to come back to those roots.”
Will Grier finished 20-of-25 passing for two touchdowns and 316 yards, much of that in the first five possessions when West Virginia built a 20-0 lead. Grier threw for only 83 yards in the second half, when WVU controlled the ball for more than 17 minutes but couldn’t add to the lead.
“We knew that we were going to run it a lot,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “So I told the guys to be patient. Even with me, I had to be patient with the play-calling.”
The Mountaineers had gone 1-14 the past six seasons when scoring fewer than 24 points. (That lone win was 17-16 over Kansas State last year.)
When it became the defense’s game to win, maybe the week of tough practices paid off.
Said safety Kyzir White: “Guys were ready to get after it.”
The Mountaineers had been giving up 37 points and 488 yards per game in conference, but held Iowa State to 350 yards.
Line on K-State vs. West Virginia
Kansas State (5-4, 3-3) used its third-string quarterback to overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit at Texas Tech and won 42-35 in overtime. Skylar Thompson could get his first start this week when the Wildcats face WVU In Manhattan.
Kansas State opened as a 1.5-point favorite in the game.