West Virginia earned its second ranked victory of the season over No. 22 Iowa State 38-31 on a wet and dreary afternoon in Morgantown on Saturday.
The Mountaineers got the win behind one of the biggest performances from their offense all season. They gained 492 yards against the top-ranked offense in the Big 12, as the Cyclones went into this game allowing 291 yards per game. 247 of WVU’s yards came on big plays.
“We changed our offseason program after they dominated us last year in that game in December,” said WVU coach Neal Brown. “From the time we came back in late January and started our offseason program all the way through fall camp, we had that 42-6 score (around the facility) and talked about how we have to get bigger, stronger and more physical.”
The Mountaineers started with their backs against the wall early. Breece Hall gave them the lead with a [YD] run on the Cyclones’ third offensive play of the game. West Virginia answered on the next drive, as Leddie Brown added his first of two touchdowns of the game.
This call-and-answer continued throughout the majority of the game, and both teams headed to the locker room at halftime tied at 17.
Iowa State took the lead out of the gate in the second half when linebacker Jake Hummel took advantage of a critical error from Jarret Doege, jumping a swing route to Brown and taking it to the end zone.
That was one of Doege’s few mistakes of the game, though, as he completed 65 percent of his passes for 370 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. In fact, he responded to that interception on the next drive, completing two explosive passes to Winston Wright and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, the latter of which went for a touchdown.
Ford-Wheaton’s catch was one of the highlights of the game, as he ran a crossing route in the back of the end zone, making an acrobatic catch and getting a foot down. The play was reviewed, but eventually confirmed.
Hall answered that call on the next series, getting the Cyclones into the red zone, setting up quarterback Brock Purdy for his only rushing touchdown of the day.
Momentum swung in the Mountaineers’ favor on the next two drives. WVU struck in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter on the tail end of a 12-play drive, when Doege found Winston Wright for 22 yards over the middle. Brown put WVU ahead five minutes later when he punched in from two yars for his second touchdown of the day.
Iowa State wasn’t totally out, however. Hall and Purdy led the Cyclone offense down the field on a potentially-tying drive, pushing all the way up to the two yard line for a 1st and goal situation. On the next play, Hall took a handoff and tried to push through the middle of the line, but fumbled into the end zone — giving WVU the ball on a touchback.
WVU ate some clock on its final drive, but were unable to seal the game and punted — but the WVU defense hung tough, keeping the Cyclone offense out of the end zone as the clock ran out.
Brown put together his second straight triple-digit rushing game, running for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Ford-Wheaton caught a pair of scores as well and led the Mountaineers with 106 receiving yards. Wright wasn’t far behind, chipping in 100 yards receiving with a touchdown.
Doege’s 370-yard total is the highest of his West Virginia career, and the second-highest of his college career. He was just nine yards short of his career high, when he tossed for 379 yards against Western Michigan as a sophomore at Bowling Green in 2018.
“Today, he really just had one mistake. We missed a couple throws, but when you throw it 50 times, you’re going to miss one high or low. He had a few of those, but he only had one critical mistake,” Brown said. “Outside of that, his ability to respond is huge, too. He played extremely well. He’s still number one in the Big 12 in passing.”
As a team, the Mountaineers were perfect in the red zone, going 5-for-5 with four touchdowns and a field goal. WVU was effective against Iowa State defensively on critical downs, as well, holding the Cyclones to a 2-of-12 mark on third down and forcing the critical red zone turnover.
“I thought our crowd was huge, on third downs, fourth downs and at the end of the game. That’s special,” Brown said. “I talked to our guys about that in the locker room just now, if you could bottle that feeling that you have when you sing Country Roads. I think it’s the best tradition in college football, followed up with the celebration with those guys in the locker room. If they could bottle and sell it, it’d be priceless.”
Josh Chandler-Semedo was the defensive leader for WVU, notching 12 total tackles, a sack and a tackle-for-loss. Dante Stills also came up big for the Mountaineers, adding a critical sack in the fourth quarter.
Purdy — whose stellar play in October has been well-documented — was held to his lowest passing total and completion percentage of the season, making 59 percent of his throws for 185 yards and a touchdown. He was a threat on the ground, as well, adding 64 yards rushing and the score. Hall was the game’s rushing leader, though, dashing for 167 yards and the first quarter touchdown.
WVU earns its second straight victory, and its second of Big 12 play. The Mountaineers move to an even 4-4 record on the season and improve to 2-3 in the league.
Iowa State falls to 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in the Big 12.
WVU is next slated to face No. 15 Oklahoma State, who faces Kansas this week, at home on Nov. 6. Kickoff time is still to be determined in the six-day window.