By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Iowa State, ranked 97th in the nation in scoring, came from 31-7 down with a furious fourth-quarter comeback Saturday and laid 52 points on West Virginia University in winning, 52-44, in triple overtime.
Inspired when a fake punt by punter Kirby Van Der Kamp gained 21 yards and a crucial first down, his sixth successful fake of the season, Iowa State won the game on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Grant Rohach to Justin Coleman and two-point conversion pass to E.J. Bibbs. WVU’s final chance failed when a pass by quarterback Clint Trickett was tipped and caught short of the goal line on fourth down.
Iowa State won its second straight game to finish 3-9, while the Mountaineers closed out a disastrous 4-8 season.
“A lot of people deserved this moment this time – the players, first and foremost,” said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads. “There were a lot of people that played, prepared, worked and never gave up on the season.
“They are the true Iowa State Cyclone culture and football team. The coaching staff is the same way. They’ve been knocked around and beat up, partially by me. They’ve been doing the best job they could.”
A crowd of 33,735, third-lowest in Milan Puskar Stadium history, saw WVU give the game away after leading 31-7.
“We have talked about finishing all year long. It is something that will be addressed in the off-season,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We have had issues closing games this year. Why can’t we close games? It comes down to execution and a burning desire to win. You need a collection of guys not wanting to let each other down and coaches not wanting to let the players down. Obviously, we don’t have that right now.”
It was the other way on the other side.
“We just stayed focused and kept on playing,” said Paul Rhoads. “You can’t rush things in a situation like that. The fake punt probably provided a bit of an energy boost, but we never had a surprise onside or anything. We just kept playing, trusting that our defense could put up some stops and that our offense could do the job.”
Rohach did the job, throwing for 330 yards and four touchdowns while also running for a 54-yard score.
Mario Alford, who had been coming all season as he got accustomed to West Virginia football after playing junior college ball, caught 8 passes for 215 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown, and senior running back Charles Sims surpassed 1,000 rushing yards.
“That meant a lot,” Sims said. “It’s something I can cherish, but I would have liked the win.”
Sims gained 149 yards, including a 76-yard TD run, to become WVU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Noel Devine in 2009.
Trickett, who had missed the last game with a concussion, came back to quarterback West Virginia, completing 21 of 37 passes for 356 yards and two TDs.
Iowa State had trailed 17-0 and 31-7 before rallying in the fourth quarter to tie the game, 38-38, when quarterback Rohach hit Justin Coleman with a 19-yard TD pass. Iowa State scored 17 points in the final 9:38.
West Virginia gave it one final try, a Hail Mary pass being intercepted at the gun after the Mountaineers somehow took a delay-of-game penalty out of two consecutive timeouts to kill any chance they had of a miracle field goal.
The teams traded field goals in the first two overtime periods, West Virginia’s third overtime game of the season.
West Virginia opened up a 17-0 lead on a 49-yard field goal by Josh Lambert, a 7-yard TD scamper by Sims and a 38-yard fumble return by safety Karl Joseph.
Iowa State had a bit of trickery up its sleeve as Rohach made a spectacular fake on a zone read, and as most of WVU chased a “ball carrier” around right end, he turned up field and went 54 yards for the touchdown that made it 17-7.
But WVU was just heating up and as the first quarter turned into the second, Kevin White turned into a touchdown hero, latching onto a Trickett pass for a 17-yard score to make it 24-7.
Iowa State tried to battle back into the game, reaching the WVU 8 with a first-and-goal before throwing it in reverse and missing a 42-yard field goal following a sack by Mountaineer defensive end Will Clarke, a sack that brightened his senior day that he celebrated with a little dance, something he had avoided doing for his whole career.
On the play after the missed field goal, Sims broke loose for a 76-yard touchdown run, WVU’s longest run of the season and a run that lifted him past 1,000 rushing yards for the season, putting the Mountaineers seemingly in control at 31-7.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.