West Virginia has had seven different players credited with at least one punt return this year as it searches for a reliable return man. Can you name them all?
PROTECTING THE BALL
In what shapes up as another giant mismatch, Iowa State is one of the best teams in the nation at protecting the football. ISU ranks 11th nationally in fewest turnovers, committing just 12 miscues on the year. The Cyclones have won or tied the turnover battle in seven of 10 games this season, and are on pace to break the school record for fewest turnovers in a season. That total of 14 was established in 2001.
Despite averaging just 25 points per game, the Cyclones are converting 46% of their third down attempts – a seemingly paradoxical pair of figures.
Despite its negative margin in plays per game, ISU actually has about one more third down attempt per game than it's opponents, so it has had a few more chances to convert. That, along with its general lack of big plays, gives the image of an offense that is methodical, that can generate some first downs on most drives, but ends up falling short at some point, forcing a punt. (Most of its drives wind up out of field goal range, as ISU has attempted just 12 on the season. Deficits on the scoreboard also help keep the attempts down, as they have gone for a first down 13 times on fourth down.)
The upshot? Don't be surprised to see ISU gain some yardage and move the chains. The key for it will be to string enough of them together to convert them into scoring opportunities.
West Virginia, fueled by Mario Alford's two long returns for scores, is number one in the league in kickoff returns, averaging 30.4 yards per attempt. Iowa State is tops in the Big 12 in kickoff return defense, yielding just 17.9 yards per try.
White currently has 98 catches this year, leaving him 16 short of the single-season record held jointly by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. If he can match his per game average of 8.9, he will ease by the duo to claim the mark. White will also move into second place on the season receiving yardage list, as he trails Austin's 1,289 yards by just 19. However, to displace Bailey atop the list, he'd have to come up with a pair of monster games. Bailey piled up 1,622 yards in 2012.
Iowa State's outstanding center, Tom Farniok, spent the past summer as an assistant strength and conditioning coach working with the Iowa State men’s basketball team.
Jordan Thompson, Vernon Davis, Jaylon Myers, Mario Alford, Rushel Shell, Daryl Worley and Jarrod Harper have all been credited with at least one return this year. Harper never actually possessed the ball, but gets credit for 18 return yards due to his block of a Maryland punt from that spot on the field that went out of the end zone for a safety.