By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Last Saturday night, while West Virginia was enjoying a weekend off, Paul Rhoads was enjoying his first victory of the Big 12 season, his Iowa State Cyclones shutting out a Kansas team that just one week earlier had scored 31 points on ... who was that again?
Oh, yeah, it’s coming back now.
Kansas had beaten the Mountaineers, 31-19, for its first conference win — not of the year, but in two years.
Rhoads’ Cyclones had held this team that scored 31 on WVU scoreless, a rare shutout in this day and age, coming about because:
A. It caught Kansas on the rebound following its win against WVU.
B. It was Senior Night in Ames, Iowa, filled with emotion.
C. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.
D. The weather conditions were insufferable.
E. All of the above.
Certainly all of those factors contributed to the victory, but now it is behind Iowa State and the Cyclones are moving forward, coming to Morgantown for a 4 p.m. game.
Iowa State comes to town on as much of a roll as any one-win team can do.
“Our football team is excited about playing. We’re coming off a nice win and have a chance to finish on a really nice note,” Rhoads said.
True, his was a lost season by the time that game was played and certainly is no different playing this one, but Rhoads maintains it was an important game.
“It was a huge victory. Any time you are sitting there with no conference wins, any time there’s a chance to get a victory for your seniors in the last home game it means a lot internally and externally,” Rhoads said.
Which brings us to the other team in this matchup — West Virginia. If, indeed, such a victory is that monumental, it stands to reason that a loss such as the one West Virginia suffered was equally as devastating, and sitting around on it for two weeks cannot ease the pain any.
Dana Holgorsen maintains his West Virginia team is rested and ready to go.
“We have a lot to play for,” he said.
That begins with Senior Day.
“I told them you’ve got to play for the seniors,” Holgorsen said. “There’s about 14 of them who have given a lot to this program, been through a lot of change and whose attitude has been phenomenal. It’s the last time some of these guys are going to be playing football and the last time all of them will be playing on Mountaineer Field.
“They deserve everyone to do their best this week to get them a win. You play for pride. Shoot, you are playing a Big 12 football game so get out there and have fun with it. This time of the year there’s nothing easy about it. You are dealing with specific elements. There’s no secrets to the schemes. It’s about who wants to get out there and play the hardest and with the most, who will fight and strain until you get a win.”
During the last week Holgorsen said he addressed the Kansas loss and put it behind him, and that now all that’s on the schedule is Iowa State.
The injury list is shorter than it was for the Kansas game, beginning with quarterback Clint Trickett being cleared to play after being out with a head injury.
Holgorsen did not say whether Trickett would reclaim his starting job.
“We’ll see the mood and mentality the next four days,” Holgorsen said.
Senior safety Darwin Cook, who would love to be able to play on his Senior Day, remains questionable along with freshman quarterback Tim Worley and senior offensive tackle Curtis Feight.
Holgorsen plans to approach the game like any other, even though there is little at stake. He said it will not be used as a tryout for next season.
“You only get a certain amount of games,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair to the seniors and the fan base not to put the best foot forward trying to get a win. Whoever deserves to play will play.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.