Snatching defeat from jaws of victory
MORGANTOWN – Iowa State kept plugging along after the Cyclones found themselves down 24 points early to West Virginia.
Redshirt freshman Grant Rohach forced overtime with 19-yard pass to Justin Coleman in the final minute of regulation. The pair then combined on a 25-yard scoring toss in the third overtime and the Cyclones beat West Virginia 52-44 on Saturday night.
“We just kept playing, trusting that our defense could put up some stops and that our offense could do the job,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Rohach finished with four TD passes and ran for a fifth score as the Cyclones (3-9, 2-7 Big 12) finished a disappointing season with two straight wins. Rohach completed 25 of 39 passes for a season-high 331 yards.
Rohach turned in a heroic performance after throwing an interception deep in Iowa State territory in the first quarter that led to a West Virginia touchdown. Safety Karl Joseph also returned an Iowa State fumble 38 yards for a score in the quarter.
“I think our offense did well but I’m not going to give myself a grade,” Rohach said. “The turnovers early in the game brought the whole team down.”
The Mountaineers (4-8, 2-7) led 31-7 early in the second quarter but committed four turnovers of their own after halftime and ended the year with six losses in their final seven games.
West Virginia couldn’t hold onto another second-half lead, the fourth time in six games that’s happened.
“A disappointing end to a disappointing season,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “The bottom line, you can’t turn the ball over like we did.”
The teams traded field goals in the first two overtimes.
After Rohach’s TD to Coleman in the third overtime, Rohach threw a two-point conversion pass to tight end E.J. Bibbs. Starting with the third overtime, teams are required to attempt two-point conversions after scoring touchdowns.
West Virginia advanced to the 4 on its third-overtime possession but couldn’t score. Daikeil Shorts caught Clint Trickett’s fourth-down pass short of the goal line.
Trickett’s 76-yard scoring pass to Mario Alford early in the fourth quarter gave West Virginia a 38-21 lead. But Iowa State scored the final 17 points of regulation.
Trickett completed 21 of 37 passes for 356 yards and two scores. Alford had eight catches for 215 yards. Charles Sims ran for 149 yards and two scores, but he was limited to 30 yards after halftime.
Sims became West Virginia’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009. He finished the season with 1,095 yards.
West Virginia led 31-7 after Sims scored on a 76-yard run early in the second quarter.
“It was demoralizing to say the least,” Rohach said. “But I had full faith in our guys to come back. We didn’t keel over and give up that game. We had faith in each other to do our jobs and get the win.”
The Mountaineers then went scoreless over a 25-minute stretch, allowing Iowa State to come back. Cole Netten’s 31-yard field goal with 4:21 left in the game brought the Cyclones within 38-31.
Jacques Washington then ripped the ball from West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White at the Mountaineers 33 with 2:46 left. Rohach hit Coleman with the tying 19-yard TD pass on third down with a minute remaining.
West Virginia couldn’t get into field-goal range as time ran out in regulation.
Despite going three-and-out on its first four possessions, Iowa State outgained West Virginia 575-568.
West Virginia squandered several other chances to score, failing to convert a fourth down and missing a field goal try on two drives inside Iowa State territory in regulation.
After West Virginia’s Avery Williams blocked a short field-goal try in the third quarter, Washington recovered a fumble by the Mountaineers’ Wendell Smallwood at the Iowa State 1 a few plays later.
West Virginia’s Vernon Davis also fumbled at his own 38 in the third quarter and Iowa State recovered, leading to a Cyclones field goal.