Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mountaineers Bounce Back, Dominate Iowa State on Road

The 18th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers rebounded well following last week’s Oklahoma debacle and went into Ames, Iowa and dismantled the Iowa State Cyclones 49-19 in a game where many fans wondered if the team would show resiliency after the Sooners loss, or if they would roll over and let Oklahoma beat them twice.

Well, the Mountaineers did the former.

The first half lasted two hours due to official reviews and injuries to five Mountaineer players (Ka’Raun White, Justin Crawford, Kennedy McKoy, Jarrod Harper and Justin Arndt), but the play on the field was enjoyable to watch for the most part.

After forcing the Mountaineers (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) to punt on their first possession, which was a shank by Billy Kinney, the Cyclones took advantage of good field position. Quarterback Jacob Park hit Trever Ryen for a 26-yard pass as Iowa State was humming down the field. However, a couple penalties aided the Mountaineer defense to hold for a Cole Netten field goal attempt, a 41- yarder that he drilled for a 3-0 Cyclones lead with 11:18 remaining in the opening quarter.

Iowa State (3-9, 2-7 Big 12) tried to catch WVU off guard with an onside kick, but Nana Kyeremeh recovered it for West Virginia.

Skyler Howard then converted a fourth-and-one to keep the series going and eventually hit White on a beautiful slant route that the junior receiver took 34 yards to the house and gave West Virginia a 7-3 lead.

That’s when the Mountaineer defense decided to make their presence felt. Back-up running back Mike Warren dropped the ball on the turf as Arndt made a good play to force the fumble. Christian Brown recovered for the Mountaineers and the offense was back in business.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Howard hit Shelton Gibson for a 51-yard reception where Gibson laid out and made a tough catch at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, McKoy punched it in the end zone from three yards out and the Mountaineers led 14-3.

On a side note, McKoy had entered the game for Crawford who was on the sideline with ice on his knee, but McKoy left the game as well after his scoring run.

On the following kickoff, the special teams unit for WVU had a meltdown.

Kene Nwangwu fielded the kick and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown as Iowa State got the momentum back on their side and cut a double digit deficit down to 14-10.

It went to 14-13 two series later as Netten connected on a 28-yard field goal.

West Virginia then punted again, but had some positive and negative news on the possession. Martell Pettaway, a true freshman running back was forced into action and ran well. That was the positive. The negative is that the coaching staff wanted to redshirt the talented runner, but with all the injuries he was forced into action and finished the half with 12 carries for 91 yards.

Another true freshman, Marcus Simms, filling in for the injured White, who is feared to have a broken ankle, hauled in a 48-yard touchdown catch, the first score of his young career, and WVU led 21-13 late in the half.

Iowa State added another Netten field goal for a 21-16 halftime West Virginia lead.

The Mountaineers got off to a nice start in the second half. On the first play, Pettaway had a good 9-yard run where his whole line helped push him up field. The very next play, Howard hit a wide open Gibson for a 71-yard touchdown. Gibson streaked right past his defender on the play and WVU led 28-16.

Deshaunte Jones caught a 41-yard pass on the ensuing drive, but the Mountaineer defense stood tall in the red zone and held the Cyclones to their fourth field goal of the day, a 31-yarder by Netten, and WVU kept a two score lead at 28-19 midway through the third quarter.

Two possessions later, the Mountaineers put together a really nice drive. On the first play, Howard kept the ball on a 38-yard run. Then Howard found Simms for 14 yards. Pettaway then gained 23 yards on the next three carries to set up a first-and-goal. Two plays later, the freshman scored from four yards out for his first career score and West Virginia extended their lead to 35-19 on the eight play, 86-yard drive.

David Montgomery had a huge run down the sideline, but Rasul Douglas snuck behind him and punched the ball loose and Maurice Fleming recovered for the huge turnover, and the Pettaway show continued.

The true frosh rumbled for 23 yards on the first play of the next series. Three plays later he caught a 25-yard pass on third-and-12 to keep it going. Then the Pettaway show turned into the Gibson show when he hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Howard and WVU started to pull away with a 42-19 lead.

Trevon Wesco added his name to first career touchdown crew when he caught a 6-yard touchdown. The juco product by way of Musselman High School reached high with a defender on his back to make the grab.

Douglas also recorded his eighth interception of the season late in the contest. He is now tied for the lead in the nation.

Pettaway will be remembered in this one. The supposedly fourth stringer finished with 30 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown.

Howard was 12-for-21 passing, 330 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 48 yards on the ground.

Gibson led the receiving corps with 161 yards on only three catches and had two touchdowns. Simms had three receptions for 76 yards in his most extensive action of the season.

Park threw for 371 yards for the Cyclones.

West Virginia will wrap up their regular season next weekend at home against the Baylor Bears at 3:30.

Featured photo courtesy USA Today Sports

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