MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A scolding from coach Dana Holgorsen after a double-digit loss a week ago helped West Virginia’s players regain their focus and throw a wrench in No. 14 Iowa State’s magical season.
Will Grier threw two touchdown passes, Justin Crawford broke out of a three-game slump with 102 yards rushing and West Virginia held on for a 20-16 victory over the Cyclones on Saturday.
The Mountaineers (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) became bowl eligible and knocked the Cyclones (6-3, 4-2, No. 15 CFP) out of a four-way tie for first place.
Iowa State trailed 20-0 late in the second quarter and never recovered in losing on the road for the first time.
Holgorsen had publicly ridiculed his team for lacking toughness last week in a loss to Oklahoma State, and the Mountaineers started well Saturday on both sides of the ball and their big lead held up.
“I was proud of our guys with the way that they responded with me kind of calling them out,” Holgorsen said. “We ran the ball effectively and played pretty smart.”
Not all the time.
West Virginia penalties extended three scoring drives for the Cyclones in the second half, but Iowa State twice settled for field goals inside the 10-yard line to pull within 20-16. The Cyclones got the ball back with five minutes left after D’Andre Payne ripped the ball from West Virginia’s David Sills in the end zone for an interception.
But West Virginia’s Kenny Robinson broke up Kyle Kempt’s fourth-down pass to Marchie Murdock at the Iowa State 37. West Virginia’s Kennedy McKoy then ran for a first down on third-and-17, and the Mountaineers ran out the clock.
“I give so much credit to our kids,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “They just kept fighting and kept playing. They gave themselves a chance to win at the end of the football game. We just came up short. A lot of those had to do with some of our inefficiencies in the first half.”
Grier rebounded from his worst performance of the season when he threw four interceptions against Oklahoma State.
He found Ka’Raun White for a 63-yard pass on the game’s first series. White would have scored easily except he stepped out of bounds with no one around him at the Iowa State 10. Sills caught a scoring toss on the next play to increase his national lead to 16 TD catches.
White made up for his gaffe early in the second quarter with a 55-yard TD reception from Grier between two defenders. Grier finished 20-of-25 for 316 yards, his eighth 300-yard performance of the season.
But West Virginia was held scoreless in the second half and Iowa State crawled back behind Kempt’s 1-yard TD pass to Allen Lazard and three field goals from Garrett Owens.
“I don’t think we went out there and relaxed in the second half,” Holgorsen said. “I think they played better.”
Iowa State: The Cyclones, coming off a 14-7 upset of No. 10 TCU, allowed 524 yards of offense, couldn’t come back from its biggest deficit of the season and now has some work to do if it’s going to reach the Big 12 championship game.
West Virginia: In knocking off a ranked opponent for the second time this season, West Virginia compiled 208 rushing yards after averaging 75 in its three previous games.
Defense for a Change
West Virginia held Iowa State to 350 total yards, only the second time this season the Mountaineers held an opponent to less than 400 yards. Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton said the Mountaineers had a physical week in practice and the players fed off each others’ emotions. “It felt like Mountaineer football. That’s what it felt like,” he said. “We’ve got to help each other out.”
Crawford had been held to 45, 30 and 47 yards in his previous three games. He was effective in keeping drives going Saturday and had a season-high 25 carries. He left the game after getting up slowly early in the fourth quarter and didn’t get a carry the rest of the game.
Iowa State has fallen to No. 24 in the latest AP poll, released on Sunday.
Iowa State: The Cyclones play No. 12 Oklahoma State at home Saturday.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers travel to Kansas State Saturday.