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Notebook: Mountaineers now third nationally with 29 takeaways

West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley closes in on Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage during the Mountaineers’ 30-6 win on Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Through nearly four seasons and its first 33 games in the Big 12, West Virginia had never held an opponent to single-digits scoring.

Now it has accomplished the feat in back-to-back weeks.

After Saturday’s 30-6 win over Iowa State, which followed a 49-0 thumping at Kansas, the Mountaineers are second to Oklahoma in Big 12 scoring defense (23.1 points per game). During its four-game winning streak, West Virginia has held each opposing offense below its season averages:

Opponent  vs. WVU    Other games
Texas Tech     Lost 31-26     48.4 ppg
Texas     Lost 38-20     27.4 ppg
Kansas     Lost 49-0     16.6 ppg
Iowa State     Lost 30-6     26.7 ppg


“We’ve played good but we haven’t played a perfect game these last four games,” said West Virginia linebacker Shaq Petteway, who wasn’t satisfied by going nine quarters without allowing a touchdown.

“Nah, that’s not good enough. We’ve had a couple busted assignments and stuff like that, mistakes that Gibbie was mad about.”

Tony Gibson’s defense forced three takeaways against Iowa State, giving it 29 this season—tied for third-most nationally.

Smallwood still chasing rushing title: While there was a change atop the Big 12’s rushing leaderboard, Wendell Smallwood remains in second place.

The West Virginia junior has 1,306 yards on 200 carries, a per-game average of 118.7 yards. Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington—whose regular season finished with a 173-yard output at Texas—now leads the conference at 121.2 yards per game and 1,455 overall.

Baylor’s Shock Linwood, the previous week’s leader, dropped to third with 118 per game and 1,298 total. The Bears face Texas this week while West Virginia travels to K-State.

Because bowl games count in NCAA statistics, the rushing title won’t be decided for another month. Even the league’s No. 5 rusher, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine (107.6 yards per game), could jump to the forefront with a big postseason.

With running room limited in WVU’s home finale, Smallwood ran for a season-low 72 yards—55 of those on his final eight carries as the Mountaineers demoralized Iowa State.

“It was frustrating not to get those seams that I normally get,” he said. “I thought if we stayed with it, eventually plays would happen and we’d get big yardage. … I think Iowa State schemed pretty good to stop the run.

Attendance update: Saturday’s announced crowd of 42,446 marked the second-smallest of the Big 12 era at West Virginia. Hosting a three-win Iowa State team when many students were on Thanksgiving break certainly hurt the atmosphere.

Coincidentally, the only smaller crowd of the past four seasons was 33,735 on Nov. 30, 2013, the day two-win Iowa State visited.

West Virginia averaged 54,826 during seven home dates this season, currently ranking sixth in the Big 12.

Bowl projections: Jerry Palm of projects West Virginia falling to the Cactus Bowl in Tempe (Jan. 2 vs. Pac 12), which likely will pick seventh among Big 12 teams. That’s slightly curious because the Mountaineers can finish no worse than fifth in the conference standings.

A WVU source told MetroNews it’s unlikely the Mountaineers—even by finishing 8-4 with a win Saturday at Kansas State—can play their way up to the Russell Athletic Bowl (Dec. 29 vs. ACC). The Texas Bowl in Houston (Dec. 29 vs. SEC) would fit appropriately with the standings, though bowl organizers might prefer to invite Texas Tech instead.

Palm predicts K-State will win this weekend to become bowl-eligible at 6-6 and will jump the Mountaineers for a Liberty Bowl spot, a maneuver that would prevent WVU making a repeat trip to Memphis.

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