West Virginia rallies, brings a halt to skid vs. Iowa State
West Virginia safety Darwin Cook, left, breaks up a pass indented for Iowa State wide receiver Chris Young Friday in Ames, Iowa. West Virginia won, 31-24.
West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, left, celebrates his touchdown with running back Shawne Alston, center, and offensive linesman Josh Jenkins, in the second half Friday against Iowa State in Ames, Iowa.
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AMES, Iowa -- Not every team has a Tavon Austin.
Lucky for West Virginia, he wears gold and blue.
Austin converted his famous touch pass for a 75-yard touchdown Friday night late in the fourth quarter, then rushed for the 2-point conversion to lead the Mountaineers to a 31-24 win against Iowa State.
The win, at frigid and blustery Jack Trice Stadium, snapped a five-game losing streak and means the Mountaineers (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) are now bowl eligible.
"I think [this win] is important for the psyche of this team, for the future of this program," said quarterback Geno Smith. "And to erase the thought of a five game losing streak from our mind and just focus on the positives."
The Cyclones threatened on their final drive, reaching the West Virginia 7 thanks to a personal foul call on a failed third-down attempt that sent an irate coach Dana Holgorsen onto the field from the sidelines.
But one play later, Darwin Cook forced a fumble by running back Jeff Woody on the 1-yard line and safety Karl Joseph recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
West Virginia's offense managed to eat up 3:59 to hang on for the win.
"The last three weeks have been rough and we could be sitting here with a much better record if it weren't for one play here or one play there," said Holgorsen.
"The guys were determined to get a win. It wasn't easy. This is a tough place to play. Hats off to [Iowa State] coach [Paul] Rhoads and what he's done with the program. They don't beat themselves."
Austin amassed 74 rushing yards on 14 carries, had 99 receiving yards on six catches, 42 yards on a key punt return and 46 yards on two kickoff returns for a total of 261 all-purpose yards.
Part of his success was fueled by the return of running back Shawne Alston, whose bruising style complemented the fleet Austin.
Alston rushed for 130 yards on 19 carries, and scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
"Having them both back there is probably the answer," said Holgorsen.
The Mountaineers defense gave up 396 total yards but held Iowa State freshman quarterback Sam Richardson to just 13-of-31 passing.
Richardson rushed for 119 yards, though, and threw three touchdowns.
"He's a little more elusive than we thought. He got out on us too much," said Holgorsen.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the teams traded slim leads on field goals.
First, Tyler Bitancurt hit a 35-yard field goal to give West Virginia a 23-21 lead with 9:35 to play.
But Iowa State's Edwin Arceo drilled a 49-yard field goal with the wind at his back to give Iowa State a 24-23 lead with just 6:42 remaining.
Then came Austin's game-changing play 11 seconds later on the first play of West Virginia's next possession.
He took the touch pass -- what looks like a short volleyball set -- and wheeled up the left sideline, beat a deep defender and was gone.
"It's amazing, really. To see a guy, undersized and really underrated," said Smith.
"He's the most dynamic player in college football with the ball in his hands. To see him constantly give us that spark we need and kind of put the team on his shoulders, time and time out come up in the clutch, it just speaks volumes to what kind of player he is."
The Mountaineers defense nearly derailed things at the end of the first half, giving up a 71-yard drive in 1:14 to the Cyclones.
Richardson found a wide open Josh Lenz with an 18-yard touchdown pass in the end zone to cut the gap to 17-14 with the extra point, leaving just 18 seconds on the clock.
The offense had done its part to that point.
The Mountaineers took the game's lead for the first time since the Texas game, finishing their first drive with a 42-yard field goal by Bitancurt.
The drive included a first down by Alston on a long run and another on a 17-yard scramble by Smith.
The lead grew to 10-0 when Smith led a 70-yard drive in five plays to score on a rush by Alston from the 1-yard line.
Richardson threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Tiller to make it 10-7 before Stedman Bailey collected his 21st touchdown of the season with a 6-yard reception in the second quarter to regain the lead for West Virginia, 17-7.
NOTES -- Representatives from the Holiday Bowl and Independence Bowl were in attendance at the game. ... Winds blew steadily above 15 miles an hour and the temperature never topped freezing. It was 32 degrees at kickoff and the temperature dropped throughout.
First Published November 24, 2012 12:00 am