WVU Rides Defense, Withstands Late Push To Upend No. 14 Iowa State
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia withstood a second half push by No. 14 Iowa State, riding solid defense and a steady run game to a 20-16 victory here Saturday.
Using Justin Crawford’s 102 yards and the late rushing burst by a fresh-legged Kenny McKoy, the Mountaineers snapped ISU’s four-game winning streak and beat a second Top 25 team in the last month to rejuvenate their season. Quarterback Will Grier threw for 316 yards on 20-of-25 passing with two scores, including the decisive one to Ka’Raun White early in the second quarter for a 20-0 lead.
The offense largely stagnated from there, leaving WVU’s defense to limit the Cyclones to just 101 yards on the ground and finish off a much-needed win to move the Mountaineers to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12.
The contest grew tighter throughout the second half as Iowa State (6-3, 4-2) rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit to outscore West Virginia 13-0 the rest of the way on an Allen Lazard touchdown catch and a pair of field goals from Garrett Owens. The latter kick made it 20-16 with 7:19 remaining and set-up a tense finish.
Clinging to the our-point lead, WVU regained possession at their own 25-yard line. McKoy paced a 42-yard drive that moved the ball to ISU’s 33-yard line before Grier tried a deep throw to David Sills on third and five. The pass was picked off by D’Andre Payne, giving the Cyclones the ball and one last series.
Starting at the 20, Iowa State picked up a pair of first downs before West Virginia stiffened, forcing three straight incompletions. One was a keep pass from Kyle Kempt to Trevor Ryen that was underthrown just enough that Hakeem Bailey was able to break it up. Coordinator Tony Gibson then kept the Cyclones off balance by faking a third down blitz and dropping eight. Kempt forced an incompletion into a tight passing window, setting up the deciding play.
WVU blitzed, sending two rushers off the left side. Kempt tossed on off-balance throw near Lazard, but the pass was knocked away by Kenny Robinson. The Mountaineers took over and picked up a huge first down on McKoy’s race to the sticks on a third and 17 delayed draw. The back just got there – marking his longest rush of the game – and three runs later West Virginia had a vital victory.
The win kept ISU from its best start since 1976, and made the Mountaineers bowl eligible with their sixth win. Grier put up his ninth straight 300-yard game and Crawford rushed for 100 yards for the sixth time this season – but first time in four games. McKoy’s 60 yards are his second-most this season behind a 102-yard effort at Kansas, while White caught four passes for a career-best 167 yards – an average of 41.8 yards per reception with the key touchdown.
The looked to be a blowout initially as West Virginia jumped on Iowa State early. The Mountaineers hit on a 10-yard scoring pass from Grier to Sills with just five minutes played, capping a 75-yard drive that took just four plays. The biggest was a 63-yard catch by White that set the offense up inside the red zone. It appeared White scored on the play, but the wideout’s foot came down out of bounds on the run after reception.
It did nothing more than pad Sills’ national lead in scoring catches as the junior pulled in a slant pass from Grier on the next snap. Though Sills made just one more catch the entire game, the early touchdown handed momentum to the Mountaineers, who benefited from a tipped ball interception on Iowa State’s first series. Facing pressure, Kempt tried to check down to the back. But Dylan Tonkery’s tip fell into the arms of a diving Al-Rasheed Benton. It was Benton’s second pick of the season and put WVU at the Cyclones’ 47-yard line.
West Virginia moved 37 yards in eight plays before Evan Staley’s 28-yard field goal pushed the lead to 10-0. The Mountaineers continued to punish Iowa State’s offense, forcing a three-and-out as the teams swapped possessions. On its next series, WVU went 94 yards in nine plays, with White beating the ISU secondary on a 55-yard touchdown reception for a 17-0 lead. The offenses stagnated from there, with each team adding a field goal for the 20-3 halftime margin.
The Mountaineers had a chance to extend the edge to 20 points on the last play of the quarter, but Staley pushed a 34-yard field goal wide left – his first miss in four attempts while filling in for Mike Molina after his hip flexor injury.
White had three catches for 134 yards in the opening half, while Grier completed 12 of 13 throws for 233 yards and two scores. Crawford hit for 83 yards on the ground.