November 30, 2013 06:04 PM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Iowa State overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat West Virginia 52-44 in triple-overtime Saturday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium.
“Obviously this was a disappointing end of the game,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
Three critical second half turnovers when the Mountaineers seemingly had the game under control proved to be their undoing.
The first came with 3:25 left in the third quarter and with West Virginia poised to punch it in from the 1 to take a 24-point lead. But freshman Wendell Smallwood had the ball knocked out of his arms by Jeremiah George before he crossed the goal line, and Jacques Washington recovered it inches from the end zone.
Holgorsen said Smallwood’s fumble “really stung.”
Added Holgorsen, “He tried putting the ball over the goal line and you can’t do that. Every kid wants to score a touchdown so they try to, but you have to take care of the ball.”
Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Vernon Davis, Jr. fumbled on his first-down reception at the WVU 35 where Cory Morrissey was able to recover the ball for the Cyclones.
A third Mountaineer miscue also occurred in WVU territory when Washington wrestled the football out of Kevin White’s arms for an interception, giving Iowa State the ball at the WVU 33.
All three WVU turnovers led to ISU touchdowns, the third TD tying the game with a minute left in regulation when Grant Rohach hit Justin Coleman in the end zone for a 19-yard score.
After Coleman's score, Rohach found tight end E.J. Bibbs wide open in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion to give the Cyclones an eight-point lead.
On West Virginia’s final overtime possession, needing a touchdown and the two-point conversion to extend the game, the Mountaineers immediately got to the Cyclone 3 when Clint Trickett hit Charles Sims out of the backfield for 22 yards on a first down play.
Then a Sims run lost one, Trickett’s quick-slant pass to White in the end zone fell incomplete and another Sims run netted nothing to make it fourth and goal at the 4. Daikiel Shorts caught Trickett’s fourth down pass, but he fell down two yards short of the goal line. Game over.
"The bottom line is we can't win when you turn the ball over like we did today," explained Holgorsen.
Once again, West Virginia (4-8) experienced a second half collapse that has resulted in four defeats and an overtime game that the Mountaineers eventually pulled out at TCU. WVU’s second half leads this season were against Texas Tech (37-27 loss), Kansas State (35-12 loss), TCU (30-27 overtime win), Texas (47-40 overtime loss) and today against Iowa State.
“We have talked about finishing all year long,” said Holgorsen. “It is something that will be addressed in the offseason. We have had issues closing games this year. Why can’t we close games? It comes down to execution and a burning desire to win.”
After West Virginia limited the ISU offense to only 17 yards on its first four possessions, the Cyclones ended the game with 575 total yards, including 360 after the intermission. That has followed a similar pattern for WVU in losses to Texas Tech, Kansas State, Texas and Kansas.
Rohach finished the game completing 25-of-39 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns while eight different Iowa State ball carriers accumulated 244 yards on the ground against a Mountaineer run defense that came into today’s game permitting 187 yards per game.
Quenton Bundrage caught seven passes for 93 yards and two TDs while Coleman had five catches for 91 yards to go with his two scores for Iowa State.
Cole Netten kicked field goals of 31, 40 and 26 yards while missing two others, one that hit the left upright and another that was blocked by West Virginia’s Avery Williams.
An announced crowd of 33,735, the smallest at Milan Puskar Stadium since 27,751 showed up to watch the Mountaineers defeat Louisiana Tech 23-3 on Nov. 21, 1992, saw the homestanding Mountaineers jump out to a 17-0 lead after just 12 minutes of play.
Josh Lambert hit a 49-yard field goal on West Virginia’s opening possession, and then two Iowa State turnovers – one an interception by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski that led to Charles Sims’ 7-yard touchdown run, and another, Karl Joseph’s 38-yard fumble return - gave WVU a quick three-possession lead.
After Rohach ran 54 yards for Iowa State’s first score, West Virginia immediately answered when Trickett located Kevin White for a 17-yard touchdown with 14:55 showing on the clock in the second quarter. Five minutes later, Sims broke free for a pretty 76-yard touchdown run that gave West Virginia its biggest lead of the game at 31-7. That was before Bundrage’s 10-yard touchdown reception closed Iowa State’s deficit to 17 before halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Cyclones erupted for 24 points in the fourth – Iowa State's key touchdown coming after Kirby Van Der Kamp faked a punt at his own 21 on fourth and 17 and ran 21 yards to the Cyclone 42 before he was tackled. Three plays after that, Bundrage got behind West Virginia’s secondary for a 62-yard touchdown, reducing Iowa State’s deficit to 10.
“The fake punt probably provided a bit of an energy boost for them, but we never had a surprise onside or anything; we just kept playing, trusting that our defense could put up some stops and that our offense could do the job,” said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.
Bundrage's score came after Mario Alford’s 76-yard touchdown reception when he ran right past the Iowa State secondary for West Virginia’s longest scoring play of the season through the air.
Alford was one of the few bright spots for the Mountaineers today by finishing with game highs in catches (eight) and receiving yards (215). It was just the second time this season West Virginia has had a 100-yard receiver (Kevin White was the other with 130 yards receiving against Baylor).
Sims had another outstanding performance with 149 yards on 24 carries to finish the season with 1,095 yards rushing, becoming the first West Virginia back since Noel Devine in 2009 to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
Trickett completed 21-of-37 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
West Virginia’s eight losses this season were the most since 2001 during Rich Rodriguez’s first year coaching the Mountaineers.