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Marks lifts Buffalo to 17-10 Camellia Bowl win over Marshall

By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Kevin Marks looked like a super sub early, stalled against a stingy defense and then delivered the decisive blow.
Marks scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left after a clock-eating drive and Buffalo made a final defensive stop to beat Marshall 17-10 in the Camellia Bowl on Friday.
Subbing for the national leader in rushing yards per game, Jaret Patterson, Marks carried 35 time for 138 yards for the Bulls (6-1) against one of the nation’s top run defenses.
Buffalo milked more than six minutes off the clock on the final 13-play, 88-yard drive. Quarterback Kyle Vantrease took a knee on first down and coach Lance Leipold even considered calling for a second one for a team that had only made its first field goal of the season in the first half.
“Obviously. we needed every second we could get there toward the end,” Leipold said.
Grant Wells then took Marshall (7-3), which had rallied from a 10-0 deficit, to the Buffalo 20 with no timeouts. Kadofi Wright’s sack helped force a fourth-and-11 and Eric Black added his second sack to end the threat.
Both teams lost their conference championship games.
Buffalo improved to 2-3 in bowls, also beating Charlotte in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl. The Thundering Herd dropped their final three games after a 7-0 start and No. 15 ranking.
“We just didn’t make enough plays offensively the last three weeks,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said.
The matchup between the nation’s top rushing team and the No. 2 run defense lost some of its luster even before kickoff.
Patterson, who had 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns in six games, didn’t dress out after sustaining a right knee injury in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. He served as a cheerleader on the sideline.
“We thought it would be best for his future,” James Patterson, Buffalo’s linebacker and Jaret’s brother, said of the prolific runner’s decision not to play. “That’s all that went into it. Nothing else.”
Marks had 23 carries for 117 yards by halftime, though he was mostly shut down in the second half by a defense giving up just 88.9 rushing yards a game coming in. Marks said he found out he would be starting “at the end of the week.” He wasn’t surprised yards were hard to come by.
“It was all about patience,” he said. “With a good defense like that you have to take what they give you.”
The Thundering Herd still held Buffalo to 155 rushing yards, half of its own average.
Marshall tied it on Shane Ciucci’s 21-yard field goal with 8:48 left in the third quarter, and that’s where the score stood until Marks’ touchdown.
Like Buffalo, Marshall wasn’t at full strength. Leading rusher Brenden Knox, C-USA defensive player of the year Tavante Beckett and starting right tackle Josh Ball opted out of the game. Beckett was one of three defensive starters missing.
It was the first NCAA bowl game played on Christmas Day since 2003.
THE TAKEAWAY
Marshall: The offense went nowhere early but the defense withstood early scoring threats to keep the game tight. Punter Robert Lefevre helped out with fourth-quarter punts of 59 and 61 yards.
Buffalo: Got zip out of two impressive drives to open the game. Alex McNulty missed a 34-yard field goal — falling to 0 of 3 on the season — and then the Bulls failed on a fourth-down try from the Marshall 25. … McNulty made a 25-yarder in the second quarter.
RUIZ SCHOLARSHIP
Leipold gave receiver Jovany Ruiz a scholarship the night before the game, and Ruiz responded with seven catches for 61 yards. “It looked like a pretty good move,” the coach said.
HOLLIDAY’S FUTURE
Holliday wasn’t interested in discussing his own future with a contract that expires on June 30. “I haven’t even thought about it,” he said. “I’m trying to go see my family for a little bit. You know what I mean?”
UP NEXT
Marshall: Wells returns after earning Conference USA freshman of the year honors to lead the offense. Most of the starting defenders return but Beckett was one of the program’s top pass rushers.
Buffalo: Patterson and Vantrease are only juniors so Buffalo could get them back for another season. But three offensive line starters and three starting receivers are seniors and so is defensive end Malcolm Koonce, a two-time All-MAC selection.
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No. 8 West Virginia holds on to beat Iowa State 70-65

By JOHN RABY AP Sports Writer
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Miles McBride found a way to steer No. 8 West Virginia through a slippery stretch when Iowa State was disrupting the Mountaineers’ offense.
McBride scored 18 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 21 seconds left, to lift the Mountaineers to a 70-65 victory over the Cyclones on Friday night.
“It’s my job as a point guard to really get everybody in their positions and kind of calm the game down and try to smooth things out,” McBride said. “Just try to learn and win, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Derek Culver had 18 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season for the Mountaineers (7-1, 1-0 Big 12), who scored the final six points. They overcame poor shooting in their conference opener by making 14 of 16 free throws over the final six minutes.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins had warned his players that visiting teams were 4-0 in the Big 12 entering Friday’s games.
It almost went to five.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Huggins said.
Rasir Bolton scored a season-high 25 points for Iowa State (1-4, 0-2), which couldn’t overcome 21 turnovers.
“He drove past us, he shot it over us,” Huggins said. “He made some hard shots.”
Bolton was called on an offensive foul while driving the lane with 36 seconds left. But after an official review, West Virginia’s Gabe Osabuohien was called for a foul on the play trying to draw the charge. Bolton made both free throws for a 65-64 lead.
But Iowa State didn’t score again. McBride drew a foul on Bolton at the other end of the court and made both free throws to put the Mountaineers ahead to stay. Taz Sherman and Emmitt Matthews capped the scoring with a pair of free throws apiece.
West Virginia made just one field goal over the final eight minutes and shot 38% (21 of 55) for the game.
West Virginia has beaten Iowa State four straight times and six straight times in Morgantown.
Iowa State entered the game with the Big 12’s worst rebounding margin, but the Cyclones outhustled and boxed out the taller Mountaineers for missed shots and loose balls. They also threw crisp passes around the perimeter to set up open inside baskets.
The screams from Iowa State’s bench grew more noticeable early in the second half in an empty arena where the general public isn’t allowed this month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bolton had a 3-pointer and a three-point play on back-to-back possessions, part of a 12-0 run that put the Cyclones ahead 43-34.
“Really proud of the effort from our guys, and thought that they fought hard and competed for 40 minutes,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “West Virginia is a strong team and I thought we battled them physically.
“We took a step forward tonight and this is something that we can build on going forward.”
BIG PICTURE
Iowa State: The Cyclones outplayed the Mountaineers for most of the game but couldn’t get a basket down the stretch.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers looked lethargic at times against the Big 12’s worst defense. The Cyclones entered the game allowing 78 points per game.
POLL IMPLICATIONS
West Virginia should stay in the top 10 after playing its only scheduled game this week.
UP NEXT
Iowa State: Hosts Jackson State on Sunday
West Virginia: Plays at No. 5 Kansas on Tuesday.
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Shropshire, UAB beat Marshall 22-13 in C-USA title game

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Trea Shropshire had five receptions for 180 yards — including a 71-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter — and Spencer Brown had 30 carries for 149 yards rushing to help UAB beat Marshall 22-13 on Friday night for the Blazers’ second Conference USA championship in the last three years.
Tyler Johnston III was 12-of-22 passing for 252 yards and two touchdowns for UAB (6-3).
UAB became the first school to reach the championship game for the third straight season, all on the road. The Blazers, who resumed their football program in 2017 after it was cut following the 2014 season, won the title at Middle Tennessee in 2018 and lost at Florida Atlantic last year.
Grant Wells was 8-of-23 passing for 138 yards and two touchdowns for the Thundering Herd (7-2).
UAB was clinging to a two-point lead and facing a third-and-6 from its own 29 when Johnston lofted a ball to Shropshire, who caught it near midfield and raced to the end zone to cap the scoring with 4:02 left.
Marshall entered the game with the nation’s top scoring defense (11.4 points per game) and the second-best rushing defense (73 yards per game). The Thundering Herd gave up more than 20 points for the first time this season and allowed a season-high 216 yards rushing.
Marshall, which won its first seven games and rose as high as No. 15 in the AP poll, went three-and-out five times, and didn’t have a drive of longer than 24 yards, in its first eight possessions. Eli Neal recovered a fumble by UAB’s Tyler Johnson III near midfield to set up a six-play, 49-yard drive capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wells to Artie Henry with 6:17 left in the third quarter to trim the Thundering Herd’s deficit to 9-7.
Wells hit Xavier Gaines in stride for a 70-yard touchdown catch-and-run but the 2-point conversion attempt failed and Marshall trailed 15-13 with 5:38 remaining. Three plays from scrimmage later, Shropshire’s TD sealed it.

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Martin lifts West Virginia Tech over Morgan State 73-67

BALTIMORE (AP) — Darrin Martin recorded 18 points and 11 assists to lift West Virginia Tech to a 73-67 win over Morgan State on Saturday.
Tamon Scruggs had 19 points and six rebounds for West Virginia Tech. Andreas Jonsson and Juvante Hayes each had 13 points.
Malik Miller had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Bears (2-2). Trevor Moore and Lagio Grantsaan each had 13 points.
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This was generated by Automated Insights, http://www.automatedinsights.com/ap, using data from STATS LLC, https://www.stats.com

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High court agrees to hear NCAA athlete compensation case

By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time in more than three decades, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving the NCAA and what it means to be a college athlete.
The high court on Wednesday agreed to review a court decision in an antitrust lawsuit the NCAA has said blurred “the line between student-athletes and professionals” by removing caps on compensation that major college football and basketball players can receive.
The case will be argued in 2021 with a decision expected before the end of June. The last time the Supreme Court heard an NCAA case was 1984. NCAA vs. the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma changed the way college football could be broadcast on television, setting the stage of billion-dollar media rights contracts and conference realignment.
“That was a shape-shifting decision that in many ways fundamentally changed economics of college football and college football television,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And ever since that 1984 decision, courts have been relying on that language to try to interpret antitrust law applies to all NCAA restrictions, including player compensation.”
The high court’s decision to hear the so-called Alston case comes after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May. The panel upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from capping education-related compensation and benefits for student-athletes in Division I football and basketball programs. Division I conferences can still independently set their own rules.
The case was brought by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and others.
The narrow ruling in the case, which required any compensation to athletes to be tethered to education, left both sides claiming victory at the time.
And now both sides are celebrating the decision by the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, said in a statement that the NCAA is pleased the court will review the case. “The NCAA and its members continue to believe that college campuses should be able to improve the student-athlete experience without facing never-ending litigation regarding these changes,” Remy said.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said: “It is time for the Supreme Court to reaffirm that the big multibillion-dollar businesses of Division I basketball and FBS football are fully subject to antirust review and that the era of exploiting the athletes who provide the labor in these businesses must come to an end.”
In August, Justice Elena Kagan had denied the NCAA’s request to put lower court rulings in favor of athletes on hold at least temporarily while the NCAA formally petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case.
The NCAA had said the ruling “effectively created a pay-for-play system for all student-athletes, allowing them to be paid both ‘unlimited’ amounts for participating in ‘internships'” and an additional $5,600 or more each year they remain eligible to play their sport.
The NCAA is in the process of changing its rules to permit athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. That should open opportunities for athletes to be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals, for appearances and for promoting products or events on social media accounts.
NCAA’s bylaws regarding NIL compensation are on course to be changed as soon as January, but the association is unlikely to have the last word on that matter: Dozens of states have passed or are working on bills that would make it impossible for the NCAA to restrict athletes from earning money from their fame. Florida’s could be first to go into effect this summer.
The NCAA is looking to Congress for help in the form of a federal law that would supersede state laws, create uniform rules for NIL compensation and protect the association from further antitrust challenges.
Last week, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Collegiate Athlete and Compensation Rights Act. Democratic senators are expected to introduce their version of an NIL bill soon, likely to take a more broad approach to granting athletes’ rights than Wicker’s and a bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Now the Supreme Court will weigh in, too.
“This case, and I don’t think it’s overstating it, depending on how it is decided could fundamentally change the structure of college sports and the relationship between college athletes and their schools and conferences,” Feldman said. “It could open the door to significant competition between schools for athletes’ services, and ultimately allow schools to pay anything they want to try to attract the athlete. Or it could completely shut down that competition.”
The high court took one other case Wednesday. It involves a class-action lawsuit against the credit reporting service TransUnion. A jury awarded a group of over 8,000 people more than $60 million after the credit reporting service flagged their accounts as belonging to people designated by the government as terrorists, drug traffickers, and other threats to national security. An appeals court later reduced the amount to $40 million. TransUnion has appealed.
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AP College Sports Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed.

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West Virginia Sports

Iowa State has Big 12’s top offensive and defensive players

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Iowa State swept the Big 12’s top individual awards as determined by a vote of the league coaches, with running back Breece Hall named the offensive player of the year and junior linebacker Mike Rose the top defensive player.
Iowa State’s Matt Campbell was coach of the year when the conference released its All-Big 12 selections Thursday.
The No. 8 Cyclones play five-time defending Big 12 champion and No. 12 Oklahoma in the conference championship game Saturday.
Hall is the Big 12’s leading rusher with 1,357 yards and 17 touchdowns. The sophomore running back has eight 100-yard games and has scored a touchdown in every game this season for Iowa State (8-2). The only other Cyclone to be the offensive player of the year was Troy Davis during the Big 12’s inaugural season in 1996.
Rose averages 8.1 tackles per game, with 10 tackles for loss and a Big 12-leading four interceptions this season.
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Culver leads No. 15 West Virginia past Western Kentucky

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — West Virginia rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit against Western Kentucky and had to hold off a frenzied rally down the stretch to win the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.
The 15th-ranked Mountaineers (3-0) led 66-57 with just under three minutes to play before Western Kentucky (2-1) cut it to four in the final minute. It looked like the Hilltoppers would get the ball back, down four, after a scramble for a rebound out of bounds was given to Western Kentucky. The call was reversed after a replay review and West Virginia made free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Derek Culver, who was named MVP of the tournament, scored 15 points to lead West Virginia. Miles McBride had 14 points and Taz Sherman scored 12.
McBride finished the tournament as West Virginia’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game during wins over South Dakota State, VCU and Western Kentucky. He also finished with 10 assists over the three games.
“I’m really just trying to let the game come to me and just hoping the shots come,” McBride said. “Coach tells me to shoot them, and I shoot with a lot of confidence. If the shot’s there, I’m going to take it.”
Charles Bassey scored 15 points to lead Western Kentucky, which led by three at halftime and used a quick 9-2 run to start the second half to build the 10-point lead. Taveion Hollingsworth scored five points during the run and finished with 13.
Following a basket by Bassey to make it 45-35, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins called timeout. Culver then converted a three-point play, and after Western Kentucky battled back for a 50-41 lead, West Virginia went on a 23-5 run.
“I think we took some things for granted and didn’t play as hard,” Huggins said. “We talked to them at halftime about how much harder we have to play and how much better we need to execute what we’re doing.”
The first half featured six ties and 12 lead changes.
BIG PICTURE
West Virginia once again had the advantage on the glass. The Mountaineers won the rebounding battle 36-30, including 11 offensive boards. Over the three-day tournament, West Virginia outrebounded its opponents 126-103, including a 51-38 edge on the offensive end.
HE SAID IT
“There’s not a team in the country on that back line that’s as physical, and as big, and as strong as West Virginia,” Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury said. “They present so many problems for 40 minutes of the game.”
STAR WATCH
Bassey had a big second half after getting into foul trouble early. He picked up his second foul just four minutes into the game and sat for the remainder of the half. He had 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds in the second half.
UP NEXT
Western Kentucky: At Louisville on Tuesday.
West Virginia: Plays No. 1 Gonzaga at the Jimmy V Classic in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
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Culver powers No. 15 West Virginia past VCU in Sioux Falls

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — West Virginia missed its first 10 shots of the game. The Mountaineers still raced to a 13-0 lead over VCU.
Derek Culver had 23 points and 15 rebounds to help No. 15 West Virginia beat VCU 78-66 on Thursday in the Bad Boys Mowers Crossover Classic semifinals.
“I try to play hard on the defensive end and the offense was just going to follow,” Culver said. “I just ended up getting in there and playing hard.”
West Virginia (2-0) will face Western Kentucky in the final Friday.
“That’s the neat thing about a tournament like this,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Three games in three days with three different styles of play, three different styles of coaching.”
Culver rebounded from a seven-point game Wednesday night in the Mountaineers’ opening victory over South Dakota State, finishing two shy of his career high. He was 8 of 14 from the field.
Sean McNeil added 16 points, and Oscar Tshiebwe had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Nah’Shon Hyland led the Rams (1-1) with 13 points.
VCU missed its first nine shots, finally scoring on a goaltending call midway through the first half. The Rams rallied with a full-court press and cut it to two with five minutes left in the half.
West Virginia had 21 turnovers.
“We would have done a much better job if we would have time to prepare,” Huggins said. “We haven’t worked on a press breaker. We will, obviously. We’re still awfully young. We’re not quite as seasoned as some of the other people are.”
West Virginia led by nine at the break. After the Rams cut it to three early in the second half, the Mountaineers opened a 16-point lead.
BIG PICTURE
West Virginia’s length on the inside was again a factor. The Mountaineers had 23 offensive rebounds and scored 25 second-half points. They had 17 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points in their opener over South Dakota State.
UP NEXT
West Virginia: Vs. Western Kentucky in championship game Friday.
VCU: Vs Memphis in third-place game Friday.

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No. 15 West Virginia holds off South Dakota State 79-71

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — West Virginia faced South Dakota State in its own backyard at the Bad Boys Mowers Crossover Classic just 50 miles from campus, but with no fans in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions, it felt like a neutral site for both teams.
Miles McBride scored a career-high 23 points and No. 15 West Virginia held off South Dakota State 79-71 on Wednesday night.
McBride, selected to the Big 12 All-Freshman team last season, was 9 for 19 from the field and 4 for 4 from the free throw line for the Mountaineers in the opener. He added three assists and two steals.
“The main part of my game is pull-up jumpers and trying to get to the foul line,” McBride said. “I just relied on that and the shots went in today.”
Sean McNeil added a career-high 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Summit League Player of the Year Douglas Wilson led South Dakota State with 17 points. South Dakota native Noah Freidel had 16.
West Virginia built the lead to 12 points in the second half when McNeil hit a 3-pointer. The Jackrabbits cut it to four with just under two minutes to play on Wilson’s 3-point play, but could get no closer. Freidel missed a three-pointer with just over a minute to play.
West Virginia led the nation last year in offensive rebounds at 15.5 per game. They had 17 against South Dakota State, but were outrebounded 41-39.
“The way they play, it leads to a lot of long rebounds because everything is so much penetration and kick and shooting threes,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “It’s a different kind of rebounding than what we’re used to.”
South Dakota State led 19-14 on Wilson’s 3-point play with 10 minutes to play in the first half. West Virginia battled back and took the lead for good on a McNeil 3-pointer with just over six minutes to play in the half.
South Dakota State will face the loser of the Utah State vs. VCU game on Thursday night.
BIG PICTURE
West Virginia’s long front line seemed to be too much for South Dakota State to overcome.
HE SAID IT
“We actually had to do a lot of scouting, and obviously we didn’t do a very good job on the last one,” Huggins said about scouting Texas A&M, who dropped out of the tournament due to COVID-19 complications, Northern Iowa, whose game was moved against West Virginia in the tournament, and then finally South Dakota State. “They’re a lot better than I think our guys thought they were.”
STAR WATCH
West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team. He picked up two fouls in the first four minutes and another early in the second half and was a non-factor all night, finishing with seven points and three rebounds. At halftime, Tshiebwe was just 1-for-1 from the field with two points and one rebound.
NEW FACES
This was the first meeting ever between West Virginia and South Dakota State. It’s the first time West Virginia has played a game in the state of South Dakota.
UP NEXT
West Virginia advanced to the semifinals Thursday against VCU, an 85-69 winner over Utah State in the late game.
South Dakota State will face Utah State on Thursday night.

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Defenses fueling run toward Big 12 championship game

By JOHN RABY AP Sports Writer
Defenses are helping carve a path toward the Big 12 championship game.
The two current frontrunners, No. 15 Iowa State and No. 14 Oklahoma, have stood out recently by what they’ve done to limit opposing offenses.
The first-place Cyclones held Kansas State to nine pass completions and 149 total yards in a 45-0 victory over the Wildcats last week. Second-place Oklahoma has allowed a total of two touchdowns and registered 13 sacks in its last two games.
And it’s not just them. While the Big 12 historically is known for its high-scoring offenses, there is evidence that top to bottom the defenses are starting to push back.
Big 12 defenses are holding opposing offenses to 377 yards per game this season, the lowest among the Power 5 conferences, according to the league. And the Big 12’s combined average of 28.3 points allowed is the second lowest.
In Big 12 games only, scoring has dropped from about 32 points on average in 2016 to 29.2 points both in 2019 and this season, while offensive production has dipped from 473 yards per game in 2016 to about 384 so far in 2020. Oklahoma led the league in each season. The Sooners peaked at 612.8 yards of offense in 2018. That’s down to 498.4 yards in 2020.
“No doubt, it’s been an impressive year for the league defensively,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “There’s a lot of really quality defenses, and I wouldn’t disagree if you said maybe more than in some years past.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson said nowadays what works well on defense for one team tends to get copied by others.
“Everybody mimics,” he said. “If something’s being successful, then they clone it, and there’s a lot of people that have gotten where they’re cloning things that are being successful.”
At Iowa State, success starts in the middle. Linebacker Mike Rose is second in the Big 12 in total tackles with 63 and he leads the conference with four interceptions. Greg Eisworth, a two-time all-Big 12 first team selection, anchors the secondary.
Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald is tied with Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto for the league lead with 6.5 sacks, while Cyclones defensive end JaQuan Bailey has six sacks and is second in the league with 12 tackles for loss.
Texas coach Tom Herman, who was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11, said overall this is the best Cyclones team he’s seen “in a long, long time.”
“They’ve got great players up front on defense,” Herman said. “That side of the ball is so talented and very cohesive, well coached.”
Iowa State (6-2, 6-1 Big 12) can clinch a berth in the Big 12 championship game with a win Friday against the 20th-ranked Longhorns (5-2, 4-2). Texas hasn’t lost to the Cyclones at home since 2010.
Oklahoma (6-2, 5-2) had been scheduled to play at West Virginia (5-3, 4-3) on Saturday night. On Wednesday, the game was rescheduled for Dec. 12. The Oklahoma athletic department announced its football program has temporarily paused organized team activities due to recent positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.
Despite using a half-dozen different starting combinations on its defensive line this season, Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.
Defensive end Ronnie Perkins had two sacks last week as Oklahoma limited Oklahoma State to a season-low 246 yards and kept the Cowboys off the scoreboard in the second half. Perkins has 12 tackles in three games since returning from suspension.
“I think their front four is imposing,” said West Virginia coach Neal Brown. “They’re as good, if probably the best, front four in our league. Ronnie Perkins on Saturday night played at an elite level. Defensively, the success they’ve had starts there.”
West Virginia has the nation’s fourth-best pass defense at 162 yards per game and has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the league at 17, including three over the last three games.
West Virginia’s defense has thrived despite parting ways with defensive coordinator Vic Koenning in July after a player alleged Koenning made a series of insensitive remarks. Koenning’s duties were then doled out among several defensive assistants.
The Mountaineers got an instant infusion of talent in a pair of graduate transfers — linebacker and league tackles leader Tony Fields and cornerback Alonzo Addae — along with the steady play of the defensive line and the emergence of Tykee Smith, a sophomore who plays a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive back position.
Despite the defense’s lofty status, the Mountaineers have yet to play two of the top scoring teams in Oklahoma and at Iowa State.
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