WVU steals momentum as Iowa State falls in final home game


Senior linebacker Jared Brackens leaps onto West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard on Nov. 29 at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones fell to the Mountaineers 37-24. Brackens tallied two solo tackles in the game.

Alex Gookin

The script played out like it had multiple times this season. The Cyclones went on a run to take the lead, only to allow a bigger run with no answer.

For the second consecutive week, Iowa State gave up a double-digit lead, falling 37-24 to the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Iowa State (2-9, 0-8 Big 12) couldn’t find any offensive firepower after taking 21-7 lead just over 18 minutes into the game, allowing West Virginia to go on a 30-3 run to end the game.

The final score of 37-24 was fitting, with the Cyclones allowing 37.4 points per game and scoring 25.0 points per game heading into the matchup. Like so many times this season, the defense could not make enough stops and the offense could not make enough plays.

But starting the second half down 27-21, the ISU defense did not fold like it had in games past. Instead, they held the Mountaineers to just 42 yards and 0 points. 

“Defensive staff made good adjustments, most of the adjustments were to stop the run at halftime,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “They came out and fit some things better than in the first half and tackled well in the third quarter.”

Momentum was building for a team that struggled to find momentum all season, coming to a head on a fake field goal that gave the Cyclones a first down and the chance to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Following the script, momentum vanished just as it had many times early in the season. ISU quarterback Sam Richardson was intercepted in the end zone on disguised coverage. Allowing 349 yards and 27 points at halftime to a team that only averaged 33.2 points per game proved to be a hole too big for the Cyclones to climb out of, draining momentum and motivation — a problem for Iowa State much of the season.

“Motivation is something that I wouldn’t say we lack, but it’s just hard to keep it going in our locker room because we will have a bad play and then we will turn downhill,” said ISU receiver D’Vario Montgomery.

Rhoads also said the team struggled to play with the momentum, noting the wasted opportunity on the fake field goal.

“We’ve had a few occasions where we’ve got a momentum swing like that and really have chance with a defense on their heels to push in and take advantage of it,” Rhoads said. “In the end, they played a certain coverage and dropped into it and we weren’t able to identify and threw into it. That’s the game, that’s football at any level and they played that move better than us.”

With only one game to play on the road against a team hoping to find themselves in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the odds are stacked against the Cyclones.

But with nothing to lose and an opportunity to play spoiler, Iowa State hopes to flip the script on the season and fight back for a win.

“No matter what we can’t go back,” said ISU defensive lineman Dale Pierson. “Our focus right now is TCU. West Virginia is over now so we’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t happen next week.”