WVU has more close calls vs. ISU

No one can say it has been boring.

For the fifth straight week a Big 12 Conference game for the West Virginia Mountaineers was in doubt in the fourth quarter, with the last four involving one team clinging to leads that were once from 18 to 23 points.

This time it was the Mountaineers who were hanging on after building a 20-0 lead over Iowa State early in the second quarter on Saturday. But WVU fans knew better than to be comfortable after the frantic finishes of the previous weeks, and facing a Cyclone team that battled from behind at Oklahoma and had proven that it knew how to win.

The much-maligned West Virginia defense stepped up and made the plays needed to preserve the victory. A key sequence occurred late in the third quarter with Iowa State having the ball second and goal on the WVU 1 and having already cut the lead in half. But the Mountaineers stuffed two running plays near the goal line and forced the Cyclones to kick a field goal. Later with just over seven minutes remaining in the game Iowa State was again inside the West Virginia 10 but failed on two pass plays. Head coach Matt Campbell for the second time elected to take the 3 point field goal rather than going for the tying touchdown on fourth down. The WVU defense followed with another stop on the Cyclones’ last possession with 2:42 remaining.

Although scoring only 20 points and going nearly three quarters without adding to their total, the West Virginia offense was much sharper than the moribund performance the previous week against Oklahoma State. Will Grier hit Ka’raun White for a 63-yard pass on his first attempt, then hit David Sills with a quick touchdown on the next play. Grier followed up with a 53-yard scoring strike to White with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter but failed to dent the scoreboard the rest of the afternoon.

The Mountaineers were wide left on a field goal attempt on the last play of the first half and were stopped on fourth and one in Iowa State territory in the third quarter. But despite the missed opportunities the West Virginia offense was still able to at least move the ball on most of its possessions. Against Oklahoma State ten WVU possessions had ended without a first down, but Saturday a three and out occurred only once. Overall the Mountaineers outgained the Cyclones by nearly 200 total yards.

THIS SATURDAY: West Virginia travels to take on Kansas State at 3:30. The Wildcats have beaten the Mountaineers four out of five, three of those while being underdogs. They stand at 5-4 in 2017 with a roller coaster ride similar to WVU, losing in overtime to Texas and in the final seconds vs Oklahoma, but with a come from behind OT win at Texas Tech last weekend.

Kansas State has had injury problems at quarterback, but their third-string guy came off the bench to lead the comeback win last Saturday so it is uncertain who will be taking the field at kickoff. But the way the season has played out what is certain that it will be another nailbiter. I hope to be wrong on this one, but given the home field and the history of the series, I see it as KANSAS STATE 31 WEST VIRGINIA 30.

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