MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The darkness and cold wind descending on a half-empty Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday night provided a proper conclusion to West Virginia's forgettable 2013 season.
With only pride left to play for and just 33,735 on hand to witness it, West Virginia had collapsed again, closing the book on the season with a whimper, a 52-44 triple-overtime Big 12 Conference defeat to Iowa State.
"A disappointing end to a disappointing season," third-year coach Dana Holgorsen said, "that's the best way I can sum it up."
A common refrain, the Mountaineers just didn't finish.
West Virginia (4-8, 2-7) nursed a double-digit lead for most of the game before surrendering 17 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes of the fourth.
"Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in that fourth quarter," senior linebacker Doug Rigg said.
The offense's final three drives of regulation ended in turnovers -- two fumbles and an interception that led to the Cyclones (3-9, 2-7) tying the score, 38-38, with a minute left in regulation.
In a symbolic low, the West Virginia offense, trying to mount a last-minute drive, was flagged for a delay of game after Iowa State had just called back-to-back timeouts. Pushed back, Clint Trickett threw a desperation pass that was intercepted, and the game went to overtime.
Both sides settled for field goals in the opening two overtimes, but Iowa State's Grant Rohach opened the third overtime with a 25-yard strike to receiver Justin Coleman. West Virginia's ensuing, final drive would get only as far as the 2.
"It was a rough game," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, "and that game was pretty indicative of the year."
The Mountaineers had 568 total yards, allowed 575 and turned the ball over four times.
"You can't give up 575 yards and win," Holgorsen said. "You can't turn the ball over on offense like we did. We all saw what happened. Nobody's happy about it."
Redshirt senior Charles Sims rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and with a 76-yard touchdown run in the second, he became West Virginia's first 1,000-yard rusher since Noel Devine in 2009.
Junior receiver Mario Alford had eight catches for 215 yards and a touchdown.
Trickett completed 20 of 36 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw two interceptions late.
They were the last in a series of ill-timed, momentum-killing turnovers.
First there was a Wendell Smallwood fumble at the goal line late in the third. Then another fumble by Vernon Davis Jr. Then a pass slipped out of Kevin White's arms and into a defender's for an interception.
"We turned it over in the worst possible situations," Dawson said.
The Mountaineers held leads of 17-7, 31-7 and 38-21.
West Virginia led, 31-14, at halftime after touchdowns by Sims (twice), White and safety Karl Joseph, who had a 38-yard scoop-and-score in the first.
But Rohach and the Cyclones came alive at the last moment, scoring 24 fourth-quarter points to overcome the lopsided deficit. West Virginia could counter only with Alford's 76-yard touchdown catch early in the final frame.
The Cyclones completed the comeback with a 19-yard slant from Rohach to Coleman in the final minute to send the game into overtime. The duo would connect again in triple overtime to plunge the final dagger in West Virginia's season.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published November 30, 2013 8:23 PM