A disappointing season ended on a sour note for Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia Mountaineers. After starting the game on a 17-0 run, and controlling it for much of the contest, the Iowa State Cyclones rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat West Virginia 52-44 in triple overtime.
It would not take the Mountaineers long to draw first blood on their Big 12 foe thanks to a long field goal from Josh Lambert. After holding the Cyclones to a three-and-out on the opening possession, West Virginia's offense gained 38 quick yards to put the team in arm's reach of the red zone.
But the offense stalled once it crossed the 50 for West Virginia, ultimately resulting in the opening 49-yard Lambert field goal to put the Mountaineers up 3-0.
Following the hot opening drive, the West Virginia offense cooled down a touch on the ensuing possession. Defensively, the Mountaineers continued to pile it on the Cyclones, holding them to a second-straight three-and-out, but offensively, West Virginia could get little going, punting the ball away after three unsuccessful plays.
Although little progress was made on offense, defensively the Mountaineers proved to be a force against the Cyclones. On Iowa State's fourth possession, West Virginia's Nick Kwiatkoski would strike. A mainstay on defense this season, Kwiatkoski would jump in front of a Grant Rohach pass for the easy interception, his third of the season.
Two plays later, senior running back Charles Sims, who entered the day knocking on the door of a 1000-yard season, would take the handoff to the right side and scamper in for the six-yard score. The touchdown put West Virginia up 10-0.
It would only take the defense one play to back up the performance of the previous drive when Iowa State's Aaron Wimberly coughed up the football on a short run. Karl Joseph would scoop up the ball and return it 38 yards for the West Virginia touchdown. After being confirmed by review Lambert connected with the extra point to extend the Mountaineer's lead, 17-0.
The Cyclones would finally find their offensive rhythm thanks in part to a gutsy fourth-down call. Iowa State coach Paul Rhodes would leave his offense on the field in a short fourth-and-one in their own territory. A short run up the middle by running back Jeff Woody would give the Cyclones a much-needed first down.
One play later, Rohach would put the Cyclones on the board, keeping a read option and taking it 54 yards for the touchdown. The scoring drive cut into West Virginia's lead with the Mountaineers holding a 17-7 advantage.
West Virginia would quickly answer on the ensuing drive thanks to the passing efforts of Clint Trickett. The junior quarterback, making his first start in a number of weeks due to a concussion sustained against Kansas State, went 3-3 on a four play, 91-yard drive, ending with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kevin White. The score pushed the Mountaineer's lead back to 17, up 24-7.
Iowa State would do its best to turn the contest into a shootout on the ensuing drive, pushing the ball inside the ten after start on their own 24-yard line.
But the West Virginia defense would step up yet again. The Cyclones were unable to penetrate the strong Mountaineer front. Staring down the barrel of a third-and-long, West Virginia senior Will Clarke would step up in his final game in the old gold and blue, sacking Iowa State's Rohach back to the 28-yard line.
The Cyclones would attempt a 42-yard field goal, but kicker Cole Netten clanked the ball off the right goalpost keeping the Mountaineers on top, 24-7.
With momentum continuing to build for the Mountaineers, Sims would break the game wide open for West Virginia to gain 1000 yards rushing on the year. On the first play of the drive Sims would take the handoff up the middle, running 76 yards untouched for the score. The touchdown extended West Virginia's lead, 31-7.
Iowa State would not go down quietly in the first half, however, quickly answering Sims' touchdown with a scoring drive of its own. The Cyclones quickly drove 64 yards in five plays, finding the end zone with a 10-yard pass to wideout Quenton Bundrage. The score cut into West Virginia's lead, but the Mountaineers continued to hold a 31-14 advantage midway through the second quarter.
From there both teams would go on a lengthy scoring drought that would trickle into the second half. West Virginia maintained a 31-14 lead heading into the locker room.
It appeared that the scoring lull would be broken nine minutes into the half as Iowa State promptly marched 62 yards down the field in just over six minutes. The West Virginia defense stopped the progress in the red zone before Rhodes sent on his kicking team to tack three easy points on the board.
But West Virginia's Avery Williams made it his mission to keep those points from becoming a reality. The redshirt sophomore cornerback broke through the Cyclone's line to record a key block, keeping the score 31-14.
West Virginia would turn the blocked kick into momentum on the ensuing offensive possession, quickly moving the ball deep into the red zone thanks to a 45-yard run from Dreamius Smith.
With the Mountaineers staring at first-and-goal from the eight-yard line, freshman running back Wendell Smallwood would receive three-straight carries. On the third attempt, however, an Iowa State defender would knock the ball loose from Smallwood's hands as he attempted one final push for the end zone. The Cyclones recovered, halting West Virginia's scoring attempt.
Iowa State would parlay momentum off the fumble into a 12-play, 99-yard touchdown drive, ending with a three-yard touchdown run from Shontrelle Johnson. The score cut into the West Virginia's lead with a huge 14-point swing, with the Mountaineers holding a 31-21 lead with 14:00 remaining in the contest.
The Cyclone's momentum would not transfer to defense, however, thanks to the efforts of Mario Alford. Trickett would connect with the speedy receiver across the middle before Alford took off. 76-yards later, the Mountaineers had another touchdown, answering the Cyclones and extend the lead, 38-21.
Iowa State would enter the fourth quarter with an outside shot of a comeback, making the possibility more realistic with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Bundrage. The score cut West Virginia's lead to 10 points with 9:38 remaining.
With just over eight minutes remaining, the Mountaineers gave the Cyclones another opportunity to cut into the lead. A fumble by Vernon Davis was recovered by Iowa State, giving the Cyclones prime field position in West Virginia territory, down 38-28.
West Virginia's defense held firm despite the difficult odds, holding the Cyclones to a short field goal. Still, the kick cut into the lead once more, putting Iowa State a mere touchdown away from tying with 4:30 remaining.
The Cyclones would have another opportunity handed to them with a Trickett interception at the West Virginia 34-yard line. The pick gave Iowa State the ball with just over two minutes remaining in the contest.
Continuing to pile on to the West Virginia collapse, it would take Cyclone quarterback Rohach five plays to find the end zone. The redshirt freshmen signal caller found receiver Justin Coleman across the middle for the touchdown. The score tied the contest at 38 with one minute remaining.
The Mountaineers would fail to break the stalemate during that final minute setting up the second overtime game of the season in Morgantown.
West Virginia won the toss and elected to start the period on defense, holding the Cyclones to a field goal on the first drive.
When it was their turn, the Mountaineers could not top Iowa State. The Cyclones defense held West Virginia at bay with a three-and-out, resulting in a 41-yard field goal from Lambert.
Both teams would again swap field goals in the second overtime, sending the contest into a third extra period tied at 44.
To open up the third overtime, Iowa State would need only one play to find the end zone. Rohach connected with a wide-open Coleman across the middle for the easy Cyclone score.
Per overtime rules, the Cyclones were forced to attempt a two-point conversion, which was successful with a jump pass to E.J. Bibbs. The score forced the Mountaineers to match the touchdown on the ensuing possession.
It looked early like West Virginia would have little problem equaling the Cyclones. A swing pass to Sims took the Mountaineers to the three-yard line on the first play, with the end zone a mere nine feet away.
But those three yards proved to be too much for the Mountaineers to handle. West Virginia could not convert for a touchdown on four attempts, sealing the victory for Iowa State.
Final: Iowa State 52, West Virginia 44.
West Virginia will finish the season 4-8, missing a bowl for the first time since 2001. They will return to action next season, opening up in Atlanta against the Alabama Crimson Tide.