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Iowa State coach Rhoads has history with WVU

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 11:26 p.m.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads watches his team against Kansas State on Nov. 2, 2013. The Cyclones meet West Virginia this week.
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Pitt's Chris McKillop watches as linebacker Jemeel Brady forces a fumble by West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown during the second half of the Backyard Brawl on Dec. 1, 2007, in Morgantown, W.Va. Pitt upset the Mountaineers, 13-9, behind a defense led by current Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Iowa State, which comes to Mountaineer Field at 4 p.m. Saturday to conclude West Virginia's football season, played a game last week against Kansas that might have been better served being shown on the Weather Channel than any sports channel.

The Cyclones went into the game without a Big 12 victory. Kansas went in riding high off its first conference victory in more than two years the week before over West Virginia, leaving the talk to turn to the weather rather than the game.

Just before kickoff, the thermometer read 8 degrees, and it was down to 3 by the start of the second half, making it the coldest game in Jack Trice Stadium history.

It was not, however, the coldest game in Paul Rhoads history.

“That was in Morgantown in 2005,” recalled Iowa State's coach, who, at that time, was the defensive coordinator for Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt. “I felt that was colder because of the wind blowing.”

It might have been the wind or maybe the breeze created as the WVU backs rushed past him on the way to a 45-13 West Virginia victory.

Pat White, just a freshman, rushed for a Big East quarterback record 220 yards and broke Michael Vick's mark of 210. White scored twice, and Steve Slaton added another 176 yards and three touchdowns on a day when the wind chill was recorded at 7 degrees.

Regardless, Rhoads got revenge two years later. West Virginia was No. 2 in the polls and needed only to defeat a bad Pitt team to advance to the national championship game, which almost everyone felt they would win.

On this day, though, Rhoads devised a scheme that stopped the Mountaineers — dare we use the word “cold” — and a four-touchdown underdog Pitt team won 13-9.

White was knocked out of the game for two quarters with a head injury and finished with 14 carries for 41 yards. Slaton had nine carries for 11 yards.

In the previous two games that season, White and Slaton had combined for 831 rushing yards.

Rhoads dared WVU to throw deep down the middle. Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez refused to accept the dare, WVU didn't get its shot at a national title, and Rodriguez left for Michigan.

Had WVU won that game and won a national title, it might be playing in the ACC instead of Pitt — with Rodriguez still its coach.

But back to today. Rhoads brings his team in fresh off a 34-0 victory behind quarterback Grant Rohach, who threw for 300 yards in the most difficult of conditions.

“He was nothing short of magnificent. The kid played a great football game. He threw strikes on a night when you did not think that could happen, with hands like cardboards and football like bricks. It was magnificent,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads enjoyed the victory with his team, then went home to his wife to thaw out.

“It took awhile,” he said. “The wife and I went home to an empty house, sat by the fire watching games. I was sore from jumping around after the game. Make no mistake, it was cold.”

But it gave him a warm feeling.

Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.

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