Ames, Iowa. The home of the Iowa State Cyclones of the Big 12 Conference.
Iowa State. Home of the school that welcomed West Virginia University and Texas Christian University to its conference . . . so that the Cyclones and Kansas might have some company at the bottom of the football ladder.
All is right in corn country. Last week, the mediocre Cyclones defeated Kansas to move their bowl-capable record to 6-5. Those six wins included a 9-6 win over heated rival Iowa. Those six wins qualified Iowa State for a bowl game.
And with only West Virginia left on the schedule, some of the pressure was evaporated from this Friday’s game in Ames against the low-flying Mountaineers.
Meineke Car Care Bowl. Pinstripe Bowl. Valley of the Sun Bowl. When West Virginia was romping along with a 5-0 record those bowls looked like scraps for junkyard dogs. Now they look like a part of the crown jewels that are placed under the care of armed guards in the Tower of London.
West Virginia has to win one of its last two games to even qualify for one of those bowls that offer a Big 12 team some salve to soothe a savage season.
One of those chances to get that elusive sixth win came last Saturday night in Morgantown against Oklahoma, then a 7-2 team whose season had been spoiled in the eyes of its fans by losses to Kansas State and Notre Dame.
The Sooners of Bob Stoops had their seven wins over Texas Tech, Texas, Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas, Florida A&M, and Texas-El Paso.
Stoops can look at the 63-21 win over Texas as the one that might hold down the commotion his Oklahoma fans could raise in their fuming over the two losses.
Oklahoma averaged 40 points a game and saw its opponents score 20 points. The Boomer Sooners rushed for 176 yards and threw for 309 yards per game.
Quarterback Landry Jones was proclaimed to be a leading Heisman Trophy contender. But Oklahoma’s two losses have quieted that din. He had completed 226 of 345 passes for 2,691 yards and 18 touchdowns while being intercepted seven times.
Damie Wiliams had been a reserve but was the team leader in rushing yards with 687. Receiver Kenny Stills has 54 catches for 682 yards and six scores. Stills, he of the blond mohawk hairstyle, bleached the Mountaineers with four touchdown catches, the last enough to get the Sooners a 50-49 win that kept the horse-pulled Boomer Schooner from turning over and spilling any chance at a bowl considered a plum from happening.
Specialist Mike Hunnicutt had made 10-of-11 field goal tries.
West Virginia was scorched for another 55 points just before its latest loss, that one to Oklahoma State.
The only statistics the Mountaineers could show its stunned public were those of quarterback Geno Smith (285 completions in 400 passes for 3.041 yards and 31 touchdowns and only three interceptions.), receiver Stedman Bailey (75 receptions for 1,055 yards and 16 scores), receiver Tavon Austin (96 receptions for 968 yards and 11 scores), and running back Andrew Buie (646 rushing yards on 140 carries).
Bailey had four touchdown catches against the Sooners. Ausdtin set a new school standard for rushing yards in a single game when he amazed with his 344 ground yards.
When Oklahoma came to Morgantown and left with the win oddsmakers expected, where does that leave the reeling Mountaineers?
Iowa State is that next destination. On Friday, Nov. 23 in Ames is the next game on the schedule. And the final game of the what people hope is just the regular season is the Dec. 1 game in Morgantown against Coach Charlie Weis and his Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas has a 1-10 overall record.
Last Saturday, it was the throw-first, score-first Sooners against the see-through secondary of the Mountaineers.
Quarterback Smith has the load of the known world — from Sunnyside to Cheat Lake — on his shoulders. But he can’t play much defense from the sidelines.
West Virginia has to find another win. Whether that win is under a rock or under water at the school’s swimming pool, it has to be found. Or the Mountaineers will be watching the Pinstripe Bowl from the discomfort of the player’s homes in Miramar, Florida or another warm spot in south Florida.