Cyclones Couldn’t Quite Catch The Mountaineers
Win or lose, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell says, the season is a marathon with plenty of opportunities to gain or lose ground.
The Cyclones couldn’t quite catch West Virginia in a 20-16 Big 12 loss at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday night, but Campbell was at least proud of the fact his team kept up the chase until the finish line.
“I say after we win or lose, it’s a marathon, not a spring,” Campbell said. “It’s your ability to learn and grow. At the end, you look back at it and say, ‘Who are we? What did we accomplish?’ “
Iowa State (6-3, 4-2) entered the game ranked No. 15 and with shocking wins over Oklahoma and Texas Christian under its belt. But a 20-3 halftime deficit was too much to overcome in the end.
“We hurt ourselves today in the first half,” senior linebacker Joel Lanning said. “In the second half we were a different team.”
A couple long passes from the arm of WVU’s Will Grier helped build the Mountaineers’ first-half advantage.
On WVU’s third play from scrimmage, Ka’Raun White hauled in a Grier pass and scampered down the sidelines for an apparent 73-yard touchdown. But a replay review showed White stepped out of bounds at the Iowa State 10. No matter, Grier hit David Sills V for a touchdown on the next play.
In the second quarter, White badly beat Iowa State safety Reggie Wilkerson on a TD pass from Grier that covered 55 yards. Evan Staley’s 36-yard field goal with 6:20 in the first half, gave the Mountaineers a 20-0 lead.
Campbell noted that both of White’s big catches came on third down and after Grier had scrambled to buy more time.
“We’ve got to be more effective in situational football,” Campbell said. “I’m not sure if that’s an alignment piece or a playing-the-football piece, we weren’t as sharp as we have been (in the secondary).”
Iowa State managed to score before halftime when Garrett Owens hit a 42-yard field goal with 1:46 left in the half.
The Mountaineers moved 64 yards in eight plays, setting up a 34-yard field goal attempt by Staley but the kick sailed wide left as the first-half clock expired.
“That missed field goal gave us a little momentum,” Lanning said.
Grier missed on only one pass in the first half, completing 12 of 13 for 233 yards and two scores without a sack or interception. Meanwhile, Justin Crawford was churning out tough inside yardage, finishing the first 30 minutes with 83 yards on 19 carries.
Iowa State had only three first downs and had just 112 yards on 27 first-half plays.
“(WVU) really came out with a lot of energy in the first half, “ Cyclones’ receiver Allen Lazard said. “They play an odd defense. We hadn’t seen it all year and we didn’t execute.”
But, as Campbell said, Iowa State, “flipped the script” in the second half, controlling the ball in the third quarter with long drives that resulted in 13 points. The Cyclones cut the score to 20-10 on Kyle Kempt’s 1-yard pass to Lazard, capping a 10-play, 86-yard drive on their first possession.
On the ensuing possession, Iowa State’s defense stopped WVU twice from picking up two yards, as the Mountaineers turned the ball over on downs after Crawford failed to convert a fourth-and-two from the Iowa State 35-yard line.
The Cyclones fashioned another 10-play drive, this one aided by two pass interference calls on WVU cornerback Hakeem Bailey. Owens’ 18-yard field goal cut WVU’s lead to 20-13.
Iowa State had a chance to tie the score with 7:19 left to play but Campbell elected to kick a field goal facing a fourth-and-five on the WVU 7.
“I thought we were coming back into the game and we were playing really good defense,” Campbell said. “I thought we’d get the ball back.”
Indeed, after a defensive stop, the Cyclones did get the ball back with 4:57 to play but couldn’t move past their own 37. On fourth-and-seven, Kempt threw an incomplete pass.
“All I ask is that we play as hard as we can and that part of it, I never really worry about,” Campbell said.