AMES, IOWA - West Virginia (6-5, 3-5 Big 12), which once was considered a National Championship game contender, traveled to Jack Trice Stadium Saturday afternoon and played the role of spoiler in handing host Iowa State University a 31-24 setback on the Cyclones' (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) Senior Day.
Senior Tavon Austin's 75-yard touchdown reception from Geno Smith on the same play the duo made famous in the Orange Bowl, and a fumble recovery in the end zone by freshman Karl Joseph that killed a Cyclones' scoring drive proved to be the difference as WVU earned its sixth victory of the season, becoming bowl eligible with a home contest against Kansas next Saturday to end the regular season.
Trailing 24-23 after a 49-yard field goal by ISU's Edwin Arceo, the Mountaineers' needed only 11 seconds to regain the lead for good.
After Arceo's ensuing kickoff traveled into the end zone for a touchback, WVU took over from its own 25 with 6:42 left in the game. Smith, who completed 22-of-31 attempts for 236 yards and two touchdowns, took the snap from senior Joe Madsen, tipped the ball to Austin and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Mountaineers will look to enjoy Senior Day next weekend when the Jayhawks from Kansas pay a visit to Milan Puskar Stadium.
West Virginia took the second half kickoff and marched 33 yards in 16 plays before senior Tyler Bitancurt culminated the drive with his second field goal of the game-this one from 44 yards.
WEST VIRGINIA 31, IOWA ST. 24
WVU-FG Bitancurt 42, 9:58.
WVU-Alston 1 run (Bitancurt kick), 10:34.
ISU-Tiller 8 pass from S.Richardson (Arceo kick), 7:57.
WVU-Bailey 6 pass from G.Smith (Bitancurt kick), 4:10.
ISU-Lenz 18 pass from S.Richardson (Arceo kick), :18.
WVU-FG Bitancurt 44, 7:26.
ISU-Bundrage 35 pass from S.Richardson (Arceo kick), 4:56.
WVU-FG Bitancurt 35, 9:35.
ISU-FG Arceo 49, 6:42.
WVU-Austin 75 pass from G.Smith (Austin run), 6:31.
Time of Possession31:3428:26
RUSHING-West Virginia, Alston 19-130, Austin 14-74, Buie 4-23,
G.Smith 2-15, Team 2-(minus 3). Iowa St., S.Richardson 18-119,
Woody 7-38, J.White 8-31, Johnson 8-25, Van Der Kamp 1-12, Gary 1-4,
Horne 1-4, J.West 2-1.
PASSING-West Virginia, G.Smith 22-31-0-236. Iowa St.,
RECEIVING-West Virginia, Bailey 7-82, Austin 6-99, Woods 6-43,
Arlia 2-5, Buie 1-7. Iowa St., Lenz 4-48, Bundrage 2-44, Young 2-23,
J.West 2-22, Tiller 2-20, Johnson 1-5.
Iowa State answered on its first possession of the second half as redshirt freshman Sam Richardson, who was making his first ever start, led the hosts on a seven-play, 62-yard drive that ended with the Cyclones' signal-caller hitting Quenton Bundrage from 35-yards out for the touchdown.
Arceo's PAT pushed the hosts to their first lead of the game, 21-20, with 4:56 left in a fast-moving third quarter.
West Virginia's defense was able to force a three-and-out on the Cyclones' next possession and Smith marched the old gold and blue down to the ISU 18 before having to settle on a 35-yard field goal by Bitancurt that hit the left upright, but went across the crossbar for the three points and a 23-21 lead.
It was a short-lived advantage, however, as Richardson engineered an eight-play drive that culminated in a 49-yard field goal by Arceo and a 24-23 lead with 6:42 left in the game.
Bitancurt got the Mountaineers on the scoreboard first when the senior connected from 42 yards out at the 9:58 mark of the opening quarter.
Senior Shawne Alston, who rushed for a game-high 130 yards on 19 carries, added a 1-yard run for six points less than 15 minutes later when he culminated a six-play, 70-yard drive on WVU's first possession of the second quarter. Bitancurt's PAT gave the visitors a 10-0 lead and it appeared as if the Mountaineers would pick up win No. 6 without much effort.
Then, a pair of old nemeses - poor tackling and breakdowns in the secondary -came back to haunt West Virginia in the first half.
Richardson, who was making his first-ever start at quarterback, led the Cyclones on a 12-play, 64-yard drive on their next possession and got the hosts on the scoreboard when he found Jerome Tiller behind the WVU secondary from 8 yards out for six points. Edwin Arceo's PAT sliced ISU's deficit to three, 10-7, with 7:57 left until the intermission.
Twice during the drive, the defense appeared to have the redshirt freshman down for negative yards only to have him escape and turn losses into big gains that kept the drive alive and allowed ISU to get on the scoreboard.
Smith and company answered the Cyclones' scoring drive with one of its own.
Starting on its own 30, the Big 12's newest member marched 70 yards with Alston, who finished with 81 yards on nine carries in the first 30 minutes, and sophomore Andrew Buie doing much of the hard work.
Smith, who completed 11-of-16 attempts for 105 yards before the half, found high school teammate Stedman Bailey for the final 6 yards and the six points. Bitancurt's second PAT pushed the visitors back up by 10 points, 17-7, with 4:10 left until the of the half.
It would appear as if WVU's defense had found its rhythm on the Cyclones' next series as a third-and-9 attempt was incomplete, forcing the hosts to punt away the ball.
A 9-yard run by Austin from the WVU 42 gave the guests a second-and-1 at the ISU 49, but a pass to Bailey that would have given the old gold and blue a first down deep in Cyclones' territory was called back because of a holding call against Quinton Spain.
Two runs netted only four yards, forcing West Virginia to punt the ball away. Still, Iowa State only had 92 seconds left to move the football 71 yards.
No problem against a Mountaineer defense that is the worst in the country in defending the pass. Richardson got things going with a 10-yard completion to Josh Lenz and the duo would hook up one more time, this one going for 18 yards and the Cyclones' second touchdown of the game with 18 ticks left in the half.
The biggest play on the drive was a 21-yard scramble by Richardson on a fourth-and-6 from the WV 39. The 207-pounder put his team on the scoreboard seconds later when he found Lenz all alone behind the Mountaineers' secondary.