Oklahoma Football

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs in for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia finds itself at the game that marks not only its midway point in the season when it hosts Iowa State at 4 p.m. on Saturday but also at the midway point in a three-game stretch that well may be as challenging in terms of quarterbacks faced as any team in the country will see this year.

With Texas and Big 12 preseason player of the year Sam Ehlinger now in the history books, with Brock Purdy and Iowa State riding a huge offensive wave into this week and then Jalen Hurts, who just may provide Oklahoma with a third consecutive Heisman Trophy winning quarterback on the horizon for what will be a Noon game on Oct. 19 the Mountaineers are caught in a football flinging crossfire like no other.

While the Mountaineers lost to Texas on Saturday, 42-31, they did a solid job against Ehlinger and his dual threat of running and passing.

They held him to just 212 passing yards, 18 of 33 throwing with two touchdowns while sacking three times and kept him down to 45 rushing yards even though he scored twice on the ground.

“He admittedly did not have a good game against West Virginia,” the Texas coach, Tom Herman, said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches conference call. “He said to me Sunday ‘That was my worst game of the year, maybe my worst in the last 10 or 15 games I have played, but we’d have been begging for that in my freshman year.’”

Which is the truth, showing just how much he has improved.

Hurts, on the other hand, was a big time player from the beginning, starting at Alabama and winning 26 of 28 starts before transferring to Oklahoma.

You look at the numbers [See accompanying chart] and you can’t deny him his place among the Heisman candidates and above the others in the Big 12.

But rather than look at those numbers, listen to Herman, who has to find a way to slow the man who is following Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray in this week’s Red River Shootout.

“Obviously, Kyler is such a dynamic runner, but Jalen is a great runner in his own right. They have a few more quarterback designed runs with Jalen just because he is so big and strong,” Herman said. “Every time I look up it feels like he’s running for 100 yards. Kyler and Baker could do it, but that was not something they hung their hat on. Jalen is playing so well throwing the football, the designed runs become difficult to stop.”

This week, though, it is often overlooked Brock Purdy who concerns WVU’s Neal Brown, and rightfully so.

First off, let’s understand that he is on or just a notch below the level of Hurts and Ehlinger, you just don’t hear much about him because Iowa State is much like WVU when it comes to trying to be heard over the roar that comes out Texas and Oklahoma on the national scene.

“Purdy is playing really good. I’m super impressed,” Neal Brown said. “You’re talking about a kid who is in the conversation to be the best quarterback we’ve played so far, and we’ve played two really good quarterbacks (Missouri’s Kelly Bryant and Ehlinger).

“Offensively, they are playing at an extremely high level. He’s throwing the football down the field. He’s big enough to run physical. Early on, other than the numbers Hurts is putting up, he’s in contention to be one of the best players in our league.”

Purdy has changed the entire offensive identity of the Iowa State offense now that running back David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler, both having moved on to the NFL.

He now is the hub of the offense, not only a dangerous passer but the team’s leading rusher.

“We have created an offensive identity this year faster than we ever have and a lot of it has gone through the quarterback,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s different than last year when it went through David and Hakeem. We use Brock’s skill set both running and passing.”

Campbell sees Purdy as something more than just a football player.

“He’s a really special kid, way even greater than just as a football player. What makes him most special is who is as a person. You get some of those players who come around and have unique mannerisms about who they are as a person and as a man, it impacts everyone around them,” he said.

“If you asked where he’s grown the most from last year to this year, I don’t know if its structure (of the offense) or him owning what’s going on around him offensively. It was good for us to get to the off-season last year and put an offense around his skill set. That helped him take ownership in what we were trying to do offensively.”

Iowa State has two losses this season by a combined three points and over the last three games the offense has jump started, averaging 47.3 points and 518.3 yard per game.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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