For a pair of universities that have had football programs since the 1890s, West Virginia and Iowa State have only met on the gridiron seven times in their storied history. All of these meetings have taken place since WVU joined the Big 12 Conference in 2012 and the series has often reflected the states of the respective programs. As a result, this game serves as a benchmark for each team year in and year out and it certainly will do the same this season.
The 2012 game between WVU and ISU came at the end of the Mountaineers’ steep decline after their 5-0 start in year 1 in the Big 12 Conference. WVU was able to spread out the offensive attack with Geno Smith efficiently putting up 236 yards and two touchdowns on 22/31 passing. Meanwhile, Shawne Alston ran for 130 yards on just 19 carries and Tavon Austin put together a rushing performance of 74 yards while adding 99 receiving yards and a touchdown. Iowa State quarterback Sam B. Richardson was the key factor for the Cyclone offense, throwing for 162 yards and three touchdowns. However, most of his damage came on the ground as he led the team in rushing with 119 yards on 18 carries. The game was tight throughout with WVU striving to achieve bowl eligibility in its eleventh game of the season. It would be that receiving touchdown by Austin that made the difference as Smith hit the speedster for a 75-yard score as the Mountaineers trailed 24-23 with 6:31 left to play in the ballgame. Austin also ran in the two-point conversion and WVU led 31-24. Richardson led his offense back onto the field and sustained a long drive, deep into WVU territory, looking to tie the game. However, running back Jeff Woody would put the ball on the ground as Darwin Cook forced the fumble and Karl Joseph recovered in the end zone for a touch back. The offense ran nearly four minutes off the clock and the Mountaineers added their sixth win of the season, reaching bowl eligibility for the second time in the first two years of Dana Holgorsen’s tenure.
The next year, the Cyclones were able to even the series in a very high scoring game. It was the final game of the regular season and the Mountaineers were already on their third quarterback of the season in Clint Trickett and sat at 4-7. Iowa State was doing no better with a record of 2-9 and in the basement of the Paul Rhoads era in Ames. It was Iowa State quarterback Grant Rohach that dominated this game, throwing for 331 yards and four touchdowns while adding 66 yards in the run game on just nine carries. Trickett also put up big numbers with 356 yards and two scores but tossed two costly interceptions as well. Charles Sims continued to be the bright spot on the offense as he ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns to help keep WVU in the game. Unfortunately, the game could not be completed in regulation with Trickett’s interceptions coming on the final two Mountaineer drives and Roach tossing a touchdown to tie the game in between. The game carried on through three overtimes with the two teams trading field goals but in the third extra period, Rohach threw his fourth touchdown of the day and the Mountaineers could not answer, setting the final score at 52-44 in favor of the Cyclones.
In 2014, WVU got back on the right side of the record column with a 37-24 win, once again in the final week of the season. With Skyler Howard under center in relief of the injured Trickett, the sophomore showed the ability that made him the starter for the next two years, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns while also putting up 69 rushing yards. His breakout performance was complemented by a season high performance from Rushel Shell who broke out in this game, rolling up 146 yards and a touchdown of his own. Richardson was back under center for ISU but was held under wraps a little more in this game. He threw for 275 yards, but went just 26 for 50 with two interceptions juxtaposed to two touchdowns. After trailing 21-7 in the second quarter, WVU scored 20 unanswered points to finish the half and never looked back, picking up win number seven with a 37-24 score.
For the second time in as many years, Skyler Howard had an outstanding performance against Iowa State and this time helped lead the Mountaineers to a 30-6 burial of the Cyclones to move to 7-4 on the year. The former JUCO transfer rattled off 202 yards passing and 73 yards rushing, along with two total touchdowns, to guide a WVU offense that put up 415 yard against Matt Campbell’s first ISU defense. Meanwhile, the defense shut down new quarterback Joel Lanning, holding the signal caller to just 163 yards on 17 of 34 passing while picking him off twice. WVU led just 13-6 at the half but outscored ISU 17-0 in the final two quarters as Shelton Gibson put up massive numbers with 148 yards and a touchdown on just six catches. This win gave WVU its first set of back-to-back wins in the series and set the tone for the next few games between the conference rivals.
The trip to Ames in 2016 proved rather successful for the Mountaineers as Howard, in his third appearance against the Cyclones, put together his finest performance yet with 330 yards through the air and five touchdowns, two of which went to Gibson as he put up 161 yards on just three catches. The story of the game, however, was the play of true freshman running back Martell Pettaway – who made his first career appearance in this game. With several backs banged up in front of him, the Detroit native stole the show with 181 yards and a touchdown while receiving a robust 30 carries in his first college game. This was enough to outpace his counterpart, current Chicago Bears tailback David Montgomery, who put together a 141 yard performance of his own. Unfortunately for Cyclone fans, those numbers, as well as quarterback Jacob Park’s 371 yards, were fruitless as the offense failed to score a touchdown on the day. The Mountaineers dominated on the scoreboard, scoring 28 points in the second half to destroy their hosts, 49-19 in a clinical dismantling.
Two years ago, the game between the Mountaineers and Cyclones was a bit too close for comfort as WVU did their best to take down 14th ranked Iowa State. Coming off four straight wins, including victories over top five teams in Oklahoma and TCU, Iowa State was riding high but that came to a screeching halt on that day in Morgantown. WVU absolutely dominated in the first half, going up 20-0 at one point before going into the half with a 20-3 lead. The second half was quite the different story though, ISU scored ten points on their first two drives of the half while the Mountaineer offense totally stalled out. With the score at 20-13, the defenses traded stops until the Cyclones could punch another field goal through to make it a four point game. Will Grier, despite 316 yards and two touchdowns through the air, gave away a costly interception late in the game and gave Kyle Kempt and the Iowa State offense a chance to win. Instead, the WVU defense held and forced a turnover on downs. That defense was crucial on the day, withstanding 115 yards form Montgomery to hold the lead and provide WVU with its fourth straight win over Iowa State. With a 20-16 final, the Mountaineers asserted their dominance in the series once again, this time upsetting a very talented, and highly ranked, Cyclone team.
Last year’s game against Iowa State was certainly one to forget for WVU fans. The Mountaineers were the ones riding high going into this contest but wound up demoralized after the final horn. The ISU defense completely outclassed anything WVU tried to do with numerous sacks on Will Grier who was only able to throw for 100 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. On the other side, true freshman Brock Purdy engineered an outstanding performance with 254 yards passing and three touchdowns while Montgomery proved his NFL pedigree by running up 189 yards of his own to go with a touchdown on the ground. The game overall was almost painful to watch with the high-powered WVU offense totally shut out in the second half. As a coming out party for Purdy and a statement win for Matt Campbell this game was huge for Iowa State and broke a four game losing streak against WVU. With a final score of 30-14, the Cyclones showed that under their newest coach, they were a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12.
WVU has thoroughly dominated Iowa State in the series since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 but last year’s game turned the trend as a whole on its head. With the Cyclones rolling after a big win over TCU, they will have tons of momentum coming into Morgantown this Saturday. As WVU looks to bounce back from a loss to Texas, its anyone’s guess as to who comes out with the win this weekend.
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