MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the second time this season, head coach Neal Brown and the Mountaineers slayed a nationally ranked opponent on their home turf.
This time, West Virginia took down No. 22 Iowa State 38-31, ending the visitor’s three-game Big 12 winning streak. The win also snapped a three-game losing streak for the Mountaineers in the series.
Several key moments and performances contributed to West Virginia’s win, and Brown broke them down after the game.
Was it a fumble?
Among those key moments, the most critical came late in the fourth quarter.
Veteran Iowa State running back Breece Hall appeared to score what would have been a game-tying touchdown with 5:57 left, but the ball popped loose at the goal line. The play was ruled a fumble, and the result of the play was a touchback.
The call stood after a lengthy replay review, but was it really a fumble?
“I’m sure it’s gonna get talked about a bunch. The ball came out. That’s what I always talk to your guys about. When it came out, I don’t know, but the ball came out,” Brown said. “We’ve got some breaks that hadn’t gone our way, and we got the ball out, and we were able to take advantage of that. I thought that was a huge play in the game.”
The head coach added that he didn’t ask for an explanation after the fact. Instead, he focused on prepping both his offense and defense to get on the field, so that both units were ready to get back onto the field if needed.
Responding to Iowa State scores
Iowa State scored four touchdowns in the game, including one on its opening possession, and another on an interception return on West Virginia’s first possession of the second half.
After each of Iowa State’s touchdowns, the Mountaineers responded with scores of their own, allowing them to keep the pace with their nationally ranked foe.
“If you can match score for score, that’s huge in the momentum of a football game,” Brown said.
After tying the score at 31-31 early in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers forced an ISU punt, and then marched 85 yards in 2:17 to score the winning touchdown on a two-yard run by Leddie Brown. The senior running back rushed for more than 100 yards for the second game in a row.
West Virginia went 5-5 in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns and a field goal.
The sharp play of West Virginia’s starting quarterback made this one possible.
In his second career start against the Cyclones, Jarret Doege went 30-46 for 370 yards, which is a career-best during his tenure at WVU. He threw two interceptions, including one in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown, but also threw three touchdown passes.
His contributions impressed his head coach.
“What a performance,” Neal Brown said. “I think we need to make sure we’re talking about that. That kid’s a great kid. He’s been put through it a little bit, and I thought he was huge today. He answered the bell.”
Neal Brown said the interception that led to the touchdown was “a really bad decision.” The other pick went into and out of a receivers hands before it was gobbled up by a Cyclone.
But Doege responded to each of those miscues, and produced one of his best outings as a Mountaineer — and did it under pressure.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s gotten beaten up here, a little unjustly, I think,” Brown said. “Sometimes quarterbacks get too much credit, too much blame, but that guy battled, man.”
One to remember
On a damp and dreary day in Morgantown, 45,613 fans attended this Big 12 tilt, the first WVU game at Milan Puskar Stadium in nearly a month.
Brown thought the fans made a difference.
“I thought our crowd was huge,” Brown said. “On third downs, fourth downs, at the end of the game. That’s special.”
It had been 42 days since the last time the Mountaineers won on their home turf. That postgame feeling, Brown said, is one that never gets old.
“If they could bottle that feeling that you have when we’re singing ‘Country Roads,’ — I think it’s the best tradition in college football, and then celebrating with those guys in the locker room — if they could bottle that up and sell it, it would be priceless. It really would,” Brown said. “All the work that goes into it, it makes it worth it.”