By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia University’s football team has been listed by oddsmakers as a 9-point favorite to defeat Iowa State in Saturday’s finale of the 2013 football campaign.
While the Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) are assured of the school’s first losing season in 12 years, third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen has urged his team to “play for pride” against the Cyclones (2-9, 1-7 Big 12).
Kickoff time in Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium is 4 p.m. Fox Sports 1 will televise the action.
With students on Thanksgiving break, a much smaller crowd is anticipated for the game.
Iowa State is coming off a 34-0 victory against Kansas a week ago, snapping a seven-game losing streak in conference competition.
WVU was upset 31-19 by underdog Kansas on the road two weeks ago in Game 11.
So, obviously, the Mountaineers can’t afford to be overconfident or take the Cyclones lightly as they admittedly did the Jayhawks.
West Virginia, which is not postseason bowl-bound for the first time since 2001, has suffered back-to-back losses. The team has won only six of its last 19 games, dating back to 2012.
Addressing his players early in the week, Holgorsen said the message he had delivered to his team was, “Play for pride!”
He added, “Shoot, you’re playing a Big 12 football game, so get out there and have fun with it. This time of year, there’s nothing easy about it.
“There are no secrets in the schemes that are going to be out there. It’s about who wants to get out there and play, and who is going to get out there and play the hardest?
“Hopefully, that will be us.”
Fourteen seniors will be playing their last collegiate game as Mountaineers and will be honored before the kickoff.
Those include Tyler Anderson, Will Clarke, Darwin Cook, Trevor Demko, Pat Eger, Dozie Ezemma, Curtis Feigt, Nick Kindler, Nate Majnaric, Will Marable, Ivan McCartney, Doug Rigg, Shaq Rowell, and Charles Sims.
Sims, who transferred to WVU this year from Houston, has been the leading rusher this season. He has gained 985 yards on 184 carries and scored nine touchdowns in 11 contests.
Besides averaging 5.1 yards per rushing attempts, he’s second in pass receiving behind freshman Daikiel Shorts. Each player has 43 catches, but Shorts has 470 yards to Sims’ 371.
Juniors Clint Trickett and Paul Millard have shared most of the quarterbacking for WVU. Trickett has completed 102 of 196 passes, 1,249 yards and five TDs. Millard completed 93 of 168 passes for 1,122 yards and six scores. Each played only in seven games.
The aforementioned Darwin Cook, a senior safety, tops defensively with 75 tackles. Two other seniors, Rowell and Clarke, rank fifth and sixth in tackles with 45 and 43, respectively.
This will be only the second football meeting between WVU and Iowa State. The Mountaineers won 31-24 at Ames, Iowa, on Nov. 23, 2012.
Here’s a statistical comparison between the two teams.
Scoring offense – WVU 24.7 points per game, Iowa State 22.4 ppg.
First downs – WVU 227, Iowa State 201.
Rushing offense – WVU 142.9 yards per game, Iowa State 134.8 ypg.
Passing offense – WVU 253.8 yards per game, Iowa State 209.0 ypg.
Total offense – WVU 396.7 yards per game, Iowa State 343.8 ypg.
Time of possession – WVU 28.7 minutes per game, Iowa State 30.5 mpg.
Fumbles/lost – WVU 27-14, Iowa State 15-7.