Only the diehards will be at Mountaineer Field today.
With cold temperatures, nothing riding on the outcome and just six wins between the two opponents, there’s not a whole lot of motivation for fans to pack the seats when West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) and Iowa State (2-9, 1-7 Big 12) meet in the 2013 finale for both teams.
Sending 14 seniors, who will play their last college game when the action kicks off at 4 p.m. today, out with a win, though, will be the motivation for the Mountaineers.
“It’s important,” said junior quarterback Paul Millard, who has split repetitions 50-50 with Clint Trickett this week in practice. “We wanted to send those seniors to a bowl game, and we came up short as a team. This is our last chance to send them out right with a win.
“I know all of those guys have worked hard and have done a lot for this program, so we want to get them a win.”
While most of those seniors have spent four or five seasons in Morgantown — playing a part in a pair of Big East championships and an Orange Bowl victory — the one with the shortest stay might get the most attention this afternoon.
Houston transfer Charles Sims, who came to WVU looking to improve his draft stock after graduating from Houston, has made a major impact in his 11 games in a Mountaineer uniform. He’s fifth in the Big 12 with 86 rushing yards per game and can become the first Mountaineer since Noel Devine in 2009 to register 1,000 yards rushing in a season if he gets 54 yards against the Cyclones. He’s tied for the team lead with 43 receptions, and 79 all-purpose yards today would put him at No. 15 on the WVU list of best seasons more than 1,400.
“Charles has been able to endure four long seasons and a lot of touches and a lot of games,” said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen, who first coached Sims as a freshman at Houston. “He’s handled it unbelievably.
“A lot of people have some receivers that they stick in the back, but we have something special with him, because he can do a little bit of everything. That’s pretty impressive.”
His impact may be felt longer than his actual stay in Morgantown.
“Charles is a great player,” said freshman wide receiver Daikiel Shorts. “He works very hard and is very humble. It’s just a good person to look up to and to try to watch him so you know what to do when you get at that level.”
Iowa State, though, isn’t likely to accept the role of the Washington Generals for Sims and the other seniors’ finalé. The Cyclones have been competitive for much of the season and are coming off their first conference win of the year, a 34-0 thrashing of Kansas.
That’s the same KU team that defeated WVU 31-19 on Nov. 16, ending a 27-game Big 12 losing streak.
“We have tremendous respect for (ISU head coach Paul Rhoads) as a coach and as a leader,” said WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. “His teams, when you watch them play, it’s not like you see a team that has only won two football games. They play with emotion and passion. They play hard, and they’re fundamentally sound.”
Redshirt freshman Grant Rohach has taken over at quarterback and played his best game against the Jayhawks. He’s a threat with his arm and his legs.
Defensively, the Cyclones have given up 35.3 yards per game and some huge yardage, especially on the ground. But they’re coming off a shutout, and Holgorsen believes the defense is better than the numbers indicate.
“They will try to take the run away, and we will try to take theirs away,” he said. “There’s a trend where a lot of teams’ rushing yards are coming from their quarterbacks. A lot of rushing yards Iowa State is giving up are from quarterbacks. We obviously don’t have that ability right now. We’re not going to try to get 300 yards rushing with the quarterback. We’re going to do what we do, which is try to establish the run.”
Fox Sports 1 will air today’s contest.
— E-mail: chuffman
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