West Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with win over Iowa State
AMES, Iowa — West Virginia might have found its quarterback of the future in the final game of the regular season.
Backup quarterback Skyler Howard threw three touchdowns, Rushel Shell ran for 146 yards and West Virginia beat Iowa State, 37-24, Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak.
Howard, a sophomore, was 21 of 40 for 285 yards in his first career start in place of Clint Trickett, who missed the game with a concussion.
Mario Alford added two touchdown catches for West Virginia (7-5, 5-4 Big 12), which finished above .500 in the Big 12 for the first time.
The Mountaineers closed the game on a 30-3 run, going up 34-24 with 9:10 left on a 15-yard touchdown catch by Daikiel Shorts from Howard.
Howard also ran for 69 yards, the most for a Mountaineers quarterback since 2009.
“The one that stands out is that touchdown to Daikiel. A mobile quarterback, a versatile quarterback,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Skyler did a great job of, when the protection broke down, extending the play and keeping his eyes downfield.”
Sam Richardson threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns for Iowa State (2-9, 0-8), which lost its fifth straight.
The Cyclones had their chances.
Iowa State appeared to be poised to at least tie the game at 27-27 after a spectacular catch by freshman Allen Lazard — who juggled the ball about a half-dozen times before corralling it — and a successful fake field goal.
But Richardson floated a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Terrell Chestnut to open the fourth quarter.
Alford then answered Lazard’s catch with a juggling 40-yard reception, setting up the touchdown grab by Shorts. Josh Lambert’s 43-yard field goal with 5:35 left put the Mountaineers ahead 37-24.
Iowa State’s Dale Pierson recovered a fumble with 2:06 left, but the Cyclones turned it over on downs.
Iowa State played without standout E.J. Bibbs, who injured his leg in last week’s loss to Texas Tech. Bibbs entered the weekend ranked first among Power 5 tight ends with eight touchdown receptions.
The Cyclones missed him. They scored just three points on 10 possessions after going up 21-7.
Aaron Wimberly ran for 77 yards and scored two touchdowns for Iowa State, which finished 0-5 at home against league opponents.
“I felt like the second half we got a little bit more pressure (from West Virginia) than we did in the first half. We tried to adjust but just couldn’t do it. Credit their defense. They played well,” Iowa State wide receiver Tad Ecby said.
Iowa State’s losing streak, coupled with Thanksgiving break, made for a lackluster atmosphere at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Mountaineers and Cyclones did all they could to entertain the fans who showed up.
Shell turned a short rush up the middle into a 54-yard scoring run, giving the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead just 2:10 into the game. Wimberly answered with a 3-yard touchdown run on Iowa State’s first possession, and Richardson found Wimberly for a 5-yard scoring pass to give the Cyclones a 14-7 lead.
Iowa State pushed its advantage to 21-7 when Richardson found Ecby along the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown. But Howard responded with touchdown passes of 29 and 4 yards to Alford.
Field goals of 46 and 32 yards by Lambert put West Virginia ahead 27-21 at halftime.
“We just talked about finishing, and we came out and did it. The first half we were a bit shaky — the first quarter, actually — but we came back,” Howard said.
Iowa State’s offensive struggles in the second half ensured the halftime lead would be plenty for the Mountaineers, who allowed the Cyclones to post the biggest comeback in school history in a 52-44 triple-OT win in Morgantown, W.Va., last season.
“It was about proving to ourselves that we were able to finish this year in the appropriate way,” Holgorsen said. “We wanted to prove to ourselves that the last 11 months wasn’t a waste of time.”