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Mountaineers Look to Keep Series Lead Against Cyclones and Stay in Win Column

Coming off a big road win against TCU, the 3-4 West Virginia Mountaineers will welcome the Iowa State Cyclones to Morgantown. 

The No. 22 ranked Cyclones are coming off their biggest win of the year as they knocked off the No. 8 ranked and undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. 

The series between the Mountaineers and the Cyclones only dates back to when WVU joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012.  WVU leads the series 5-4, but Iowa State has won the last three matchups.  Let’s look back at the most memorable games of the last nine years from the series. 

2012 (Ames, IA) 

In WVU’s first year in the Big 12, the expectations were high with senior quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.  The Mountaineers rose to as high as No. 5 in the polls but collapsed midway through the season and lost five straight games.  Coming into the game against Iowa State, WVU was looking to break that losing streak and become bowl eligible, while Iowa State had already surpassed the six-win mark. 

In the first quarter, not much action took place, as the only scoring was done by WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt’s 42-yard field goal.  WVU led 3-0 after one quarter. 

Action picked up in the second quarter, as WVU running back Shawne Alston scored a one-yard touchdown after a nice WVU drive.  The Cyclones answered with an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Richardson to Jerome Tiller.  After the Iowa State touchdown, quarterback Geno Smith answered back with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey.  Before WVU could go into the locker room with a 10-point cushion, Iowa State moved down the field and scored on an 18-yard touchdown catch by Josh Lenz.  WVU led 17-14 at halftime. 

Midway through the third quarter, WVU added to their lead when Tyler Bitancurt made a 44-yard field goal.  With just under five minutes to play in the quarter, Iowa State would take their first lead of the game when Sam Richardson found Quenton Bundrage for a 35-yard touchdown.  The Cyclones took a 21-20 lead into the fourth quarter. 

In the fourth, WVU reclaimed the lead with a 35-yard field goal from Tyler Bitancurt.  Iowa State’s special teams answered the Mountaineer field goal with a 49-yard field goal from Edwin Arceo.  On WVU’s first play of the drive after the Iowa State field goal, the Mountaineers gave the ball to their top talent in Tavon Austin.  Austin came in motion before the snap and received a touch-pass from Geno Smith that he took all the way for a 75-yard touchdown.  The Mountaineers went for a two-point conversion to give them a touchdown lead, and it worked as Tavon Austin found the end zone again.  The Mountaineers now led 31-24. 

On Iowa State’s crucial next offensive possession, they moved the ball down the field, and took advantage of WVU’s defensive penalties.  With 4:05 to play, it looked like WVU would force an Iowa State fourth down, but another 15-yard flag was thrown.  Iowa State now had first and goal to go with a chance to tie the game.  On the first down play, WVU safety Darwin Cook forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Karl Joseph.  WVU’s offense took the ball and ran out the remainder of the clock to secure the 31-24 victory to make the Mountaineers bowl eligible.  

2017 (Morgantown, WV) 

In head coach Matt Campbell’s second year at Iowa State, he had turned the program around in a short amount of time.  The Cyclones, who were an easy victory for the Mountaineers the year before, came into Morgantown ranked No. 15 in the country.  WVU was 5-3 coming off a close home loss to Oklahoma State.  WVU was led by junior quarterback Will Grier, who was in his first season, after transferring from Florida.   

Early in the first quarter, Will Grier connected with wide receiver Ka’raun White for a 65-yard gain.  White made it to the end zone but stepped out of bounds at the 10-yard line.  On the next play, Will Grier found his main target David Sills on a slant route over the middle that was hauled in for the touchdown. On the next WVU possession, kicker Evan Staley made a 28-yard field goal.  WVU held a 10-0 lead after a quarter. 

Early in the second quarter, the Mountaineers were near midfield when Will Grier stepped back and unloaded a deep ball into the end zone that was caught by Ka’raun White for the spectacular touchdown.  With just over six minutes to play in the half, Evan Staley made another field goal, this time from 36-yards out to give WVU a 20-0 lead. With just over two minutes to play in the half, Iowa State kicker Garrett Owens made a 42-yard field goal to cut the lead to 20-3 at the break. 

Early in the third quarter, Iowa State got themselves back into the game with a one-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard on a third and goal play to cut the WVU lead to 20-10.  Late in the third, Garrett Owens made an 18-yard field goal to keep the pressure on WVU, as the Cyclones had now made it a 20-13 game going into the fourth quarter. 

The fourth quarter became a defensive battle, as neither team found the end zone.  With 7:19 to play, Iowa State had to settle for yet another field goal after a productive drive. Garrett Owens made the 24-yard kick to made it a 20-16 game.  With just under five minutes to go, Iowa State got the ball with a chance to take a late lead.  As the Cyclones moved the ball within 15 yards of midfield, WVU’s defense came up big.  The Mountaineers forced a fourth down with 2:56 to play.  Kyle Kempt’s pass fell incomplete, and the Cyclones turned it over on downs. 

WVU needed a first down to put the game away, but it wasn’t looking good when Iowa State forced a third and 17.  Iowa State had used their timeouts to stop the clock as well, so a third down stop would’ve given the Cyclones one last shot.  On the third down and long, Will Grier handed the ball off to running back Kennedy McKoy on a delayed handoff play.  McKoy hit a hole up the middle and then cut towards the sideline to pick up exactly 17 yards for the first down.  This backbreaking play sealed the 20-16 home victory for West Virginia. 

2018 (Ames, IA) 

In Will Grier and David Sills’ senior year, WVU was clicking on all cylinders.  The Mountaineers came into Ames, Iowa with a 5-0 record and ranked No. 6 in the country.  Matt Campbell’s Iowa State team was coming in at 2-3 after losing multiple close games to ranked opponents early on in the season.  It was an electric atmosphere at Jack Trice Stadium as the Cyclones debuted their all-black alternate uniforms to take on the Mountaineers. 

Halfway through the opening quarter, things were going the way WVU wanted, as Will Grier found David Sills in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown to open up the scoring. Unfortunately for West Virginia, this would be the last big play from Will Grier, as he struggled mightily the entire night. 

Later on in the quarter, Iowa State tied things up on a four-yard touchdown pass from Brock Purdy to Hakeem Butler.  With 13 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Iowa State running back David Montgomery walked in for a two-yard touchdown for the Cyclones.  The extra point was missed, so Iowa State held a 13-7 lead after a quarter. 

Midway through the second quarter, Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar caught a 19-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 20-7.  While WVU was struggling on offense, it was a special teams play that kept the Mountaineers in the game.  With 2:58 left in the second quarter, Iowa State lined up for a 40-yard field goal.  The kick was blocked by defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow and the ball was picked up and returned 72 yards for a touchdown by Dunbar, West Virginia native Derrek Pitts.  Iowa State held a 20-14 lead going into halftime. 

Neither team scored in the third quarter as WVU continued to struggle offensively, while Iowa State was forced to punt once and missed a field goal.  Iowa State kept their 20-14 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Iowa State moved closer to victory when Brock Purdy found Deshaunte Jones for a 32-yard touchdown.  The Cyclones went for the two-point conversion to go up by two touchdowns, and it worked.  Iowa State now had a 28-14 lead.  With just over five minutes remaining, Will Grier dropped back into his own end zone and tried scrambled around hoping for a big play.  Grier ended up taking a safety, which sealed the game and pretty much summed up the WVU quarterback’s night.   

Iowa State went on to win 30-14 as the fans rushed the field.  Freshman Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy was the star of the show, as he threw for 254 yards with three touchdowns.  Will Grier only threw for 100 yards and one touchdown.  This was Iowa State’s second of five wins in a row, which helped them reach an 8-4 season and a trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl. 

The Mountaineers will look to break their three-game losing streak against the Cyclones, while Matt Campbell and company will look to ride their recent upset win to another victory in Morgantown.

Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. from Milan Puskar Stadium. 

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