Iowa State went into Morgantown today and played almost two entirely different games over the span of four quarters and three overtimes. There were the early miscues on offense that spotted West Virginia a quick 14 points en route to a 17-0 first quarter lead and then there was the nearly unstoppable juggernaut in the 4th quarter that scored 24 points to tie the game before eventually sealing the deal in the third and final overtime period.
Grant Rohach finished with one of the best stat lines for a quarterback in the Paul Rhoads Era: 25-39, 331 yards, four touchdowns to go along with 66 yards rushing on nine attempts and a touchdown. It was the second time in as many games that Rohach broke the 300 yard mark and became the first ISU quarterback to do so in back-to-back games since Austen Arnaud did so against Missouri and Kansas State in 2008.
The running game broke lose and served as a conduit to get back into the game late with Shontrelle Johnson leading the way with 72 yards and a touchdown, but it was a trio of receivers that stepped up late to put Iowa State over the top for good.
Senior Justin Coleman added two touchdown passes and a key 4th down conversion in the 4th quarter. Coleman's first touchdown was on a slant that tied the game with a minute left and his final catch as a Cyclone proved to be the game winner to start the third overtime. E.J. Bibbs, who is having one of the best seasons ever for a Cyclone tight end, added 75 yards on only three catches but also climbed the ladder to catch Rohach's two point conversion attempt after Coleman's touchdown. Quenton Bundrage, who for most of the game served as a third down security blanket, made the 4th quarter his own catching his second touchdown pass of the day on a 62 yard strike and tying the single season touchdown record in the process.
It's easy to look at this game and think things came out rosy but that was not always the case. A questionable and unenthusiastic start put the Cyclones in a hole everyone was all too familiar with as the offense started with three straight three and outs before a terrible interception at their own six yard line opened up a 10-0 deficit.
Things only got worse as on the very next play from scrimmage a seven yard Aaron Wimberly run turned into a scoop and score for West Virginia and a 17-0 deficit only 11 minutes in to the game.
Every time the offense responded the defense failed to match, which was a theme for the entire season. After Rohach ran in for a touchdown to cut it to 17-7, West Virginia struck back with a four play, 91 yard drive for a touchdown and a one play, 76 yard drive for a touchdown. Without even blinking the Cyclones were down 31-7 halfway through the second quarter.
The rest of the second quarter and the third quarter was a muddled mess with neither team scoring after Bundrage's touchdown reception to cut it to 31-14 with seven minutes left in the half.
Then the lights quit flickering and turned into an all out explosion. Iowa State racked up 24 points, 11 minutes in time of possession, six first downs, two fourth down conversions, one fake punt and
a partridge in a pear tree 167 yards. There were three plays that altered the course of the game:
4th and 17 at ISU 21 - Kirby Van Der Kamp takes the snap to punt, Cyclone Nation assumes Rhoads is mailing it in, and BAM! Behind Brock Dagel Van Der Kamp pulls off another successful fake and rushes for 21 yards for a first down. Rohach hits Bundrage four plays later to make it 38-28.
3rd and 3 at WVU 26 - Clint Trickett completes a pass to Vernon Davis that reaches the 37 but a hit and strip by George results in a fumble recovery by Cory Morrissey. The play was reviewed, and while a close call, finally went the Cyclones way as it was allowed to stand. Cole Netten knocks in a field goal to cut the deficit to a single score.
3rd and 10 at WVU 24 - Clint Trickett drops back to pass and throws a ball to his intended receiver's hip, which takes a fortuitous bounce into the hands of a sliding Jacques Washington. It's the second turnover in as many drives for the Cyclone defense and the offense capitalizes on the short field five plays later with Rohach hitting Coleman.
Once overtime started I'm not sure there was a single person that doubted Iowa State would somehow pull off the victory. A road team with all the momentum playing on the backs of their seniors is a dangerous animal.
The first two overtimes were matched with field goals by both teams and the opening play of the third frame could have ended up as Courtney Messingham's swan song. A perfectly called and executed roll out of Rohach resulted in Coleman working his way open for the deciding touchdown.
West Virginia muddled their way through their final possession and the final two plays ended up with the goat of the early season, Jevohn Miller, ultimately being the hero. First it was his stop on Charles Sims as he burst through a hole headed for the end zone on third down, and then it was a tipped ball on 4th down that resulted in a stop at the two yard line and a successful goal line stand for a group of seniors who are another brick in the foundation of the modern era Cyclones.
This wasn't the prettiest win out there. It wasn't the biggest win in school history by a long shot. But it was a win and a win on the road in the final game of the season. This is the first time under Rhoads that Iowa State has closed out the season with two consecutive victories and it's hard to look at the returning roster and not be optimistic about this team's chances in 2014.
For now though let's celebrate the seniors who put this team on their back for one final time and stole the game, and hopefully some moonshine, from the Mountaineers.