MORGANTOWN — Saturday’s West Virginia University football game followed a familiar script.
Much like last week when Texas pulled away in the second half for a win against the Mountaineers, Iowa State did the same Saturday by shutting down the WVU offense in the second half for a 38-14 win at Milan Puskar Stadium.
West Virginia redshirt junior quarterback Austin Kendall did not make it out of the Mountaineers’ first drive before suffering an injury to what first-year coach Neal Brown called his “chest area”.
WVU faced third-and-2 at its own 34-yard line when the Cyclones brought a heavy blitz over the right side of the WVU offensive line. Sophomore defensive back Anthony Johnson hit Kendall hard, forcing a fumble which was recovered by running back Leddie Brown but also sending the WVU starting quarterback to the locker room.
“I think we’ll know more tomorrow and Monday [about Kendall’s injury],” Brown said. “He got hit right in the act of throwing. His arm kind of got behind him. The good thing is it’s not an arm or a shoulder injury. It’s more in his chest area, so we’ll know more after 24 hours or so where he’s at.”
The West Virginia defense forced a rare three-and-out by Iowa State on the following drive, but the Mountaineers did the same on their first drive with redshirt junior Jack Allison at quarterback.
Iowa State’s high-powered offense sputtered early Saturday and poor execution cost the Cyclones. Sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy attempted to throw a screen pass on third down backed up inside the ISU 20. The pass hit several players and popped into the air and eventually into the hands of West Virginia freshman Tykee Smith, who returned the interception 19 yards for a touchdown.
After the interception, however, the Cyclone offense started to settle down. Purdy led ISU on an 11-play, 65-yard drive, converting two third downs along the way, with running back Breece Hall capping it off with a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
Leddie Brown fumbled after catching a screen pass on West Virginia’s next drive, and Iowa State made the Mountaineers pay for the mistake.
West Virginia almost got away with the fumble, but a personal foul on WVU’s Van Darius Cowan wiped out a third-down stop and kept the ISU drive alive. Purdy and Hall moved the Cyclones down the field and finished a 10-play, 66-yard drive with a 2-yard Purdy touchdown run to put Iowa State ahead 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Mountaineers answered the ISU scoring drive with a long drive of their own. West Virginia took 5:57 off the clock, aided by three third-down conversions — including a 15-yard catch by T.J. Simmons on third-and-14 — and went to Simmons again to finish the drive for a 9-yard touchdown to even the score just before the break.
West Virginia got the ball to start the third quarter and didn’t do much with it, getting one first down deep in its own territory before punting. Iowa State wasted little time marching down the field when it got the ball, covering 68 yards in six plays with Hall scoring on a 12-yard run to put the Cyclones back in the lead. On that drive, West Virginia cornerback Hakeem Bailey was called for targeting and ejected from the game, which means he will also be out for the first half next week when WVU visits Oklahoma.
Both teams traded punts for the rest of the third quarter, with Iowa State redshirt freshman Bayden Narverson hitting a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to put the Cyclones ahead 24-14.
ISU added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter when Purdy found Joe Scates for an 18-yard touchdown pass and Hall went 1 yard for his third TD.
“We fought through the first half,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we really did a great job in the second half playing team football. [We] caught a great rhythm, and I’m proud of our team.”
For the game, Iowa State outgained WVU 372-190 as West Virginia’s inability to put much together in the run game surfaced again. The Mountaineers finished with just 41 rushing yards on 28 carries against the Cyclones.
“Offensively we just struggled,” Brown said. “They beat us in some one-on-one situations up front. We struggled to get the run game going versus some decent box numbers. It’s a tough ask of Jack. I thought the drive before the half was really productive by him, but it’s tough to go in and play when you’ve had limited reps.”
Purdy completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hall led Iowa State on the ground with 132 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns.
“We had a hard time getting pressure,” Brown said. “They did a really good job. We tried to blitz, we tried to drop eight. They cut us a bunch in our blitz stuff. We didn’t do a very good job of playing those cut blocks. I thought defensively we did some good things. In this league, it’s 21-14 going into the fourth quarter and our guys did a good job in the third quarter.
“Late in third and into the fourth quarter [Purdy] was able to move around and kind of extend some plays. We lost some guys in coverage. It’s hard.”
For West Virginia, Allison went 18 of 24 passing for 140 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Simmons led the Mountaineers in receiving with five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
The Mountaineers (3-3 overall, 1-2 Big 12) play at conference powerhouse Oklahoma next Saturday while Iowa State (4-2, 2-1) visits Texas Tech.