Austin, Mountaineers snap five-game losing streak with win vs. ISU
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 01:11
For the second time in his career, redshirt junior safety Darwin Cook made a momentum-changing play in the red zone that propelled West Virginia to a victory.
Only this time, 10 months after the Mountaineers’ Orange Bowl win, Cook’s efforts led the Mountaineers to bowl eligibility and snapped the team’s longest losing streak since 1986.
With 2:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, Cook popped Iowa State junior running back Jeff Woody inside the five-yard line, knocking the ball loose and into the hands of freshman safety Karl Joseph, and the Mountaineers reclaimed the ball and held on for a 31-24 road victory against Iowa State.
West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said Cook’s preparation leading up to the game was what put him in position to make the game-changing play.
"(Cook had) been nicked up earlier, and the past two weeks, I thought he came in and prepared well during the week and had an opportunity to be successful, and it showed tonight; he had a big hit at the end of the game to cause a turnover," he said.
"I think our defense played really, really well. We gave up two cheap ones in coverage – that can’t happen – but we fought hard."
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen knew his team would have to work hard for the victory.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game today," he said. "We set it out for them earlier in the week as far as the rowdiness of this place, the wind chill was going to be a little different than what we’re used to, playing a good football team that doesn’t beat themselves, that we were going to have to earn everything that we got, and we hung in there and made enough plays to win the game."
Senior quarterback Geno Smith completed 22-of-31 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, and no pass was perhaps more important than the 75-yard touch-and-go to senior receiver Tavon Austin, giving the Mountaineers a lead it would never relinquish.
Smith said West Virginia had a level of unified determination that assured him the Mountaineers would be able to pull out the victory.
"Today, we made enough plays at the end to win it, and (my) hat goes off to Iowa State because they’re a tough team and they played us very hard, but I saw that determination in my offensive line’s eyes," he said.
"I saw it (in) Tavon’s and Stedman’s eyes and the entire staff’s eyes because we wanted to win and we wanted to get off that (slide), and we were determined to get that today."
Trailing 23-24 with 6:31 remaining in the game, Austin swooped behind the line and gathered Smith’s touch-pass, scampering 75 yards into the Ames nightfall and into the lead.
After the touchdown, the Mountaineers called Austin’s number again – this time on a running play – and the successful two-point conversion pushed the Mountaineers’ edge to 31-24.
Austin eclipsed the record for most receptions in a single season during the game, besting his effort of 101 from last season; his six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown put his season total at 106.
Redshirt junior Stedman Bailey gathered seven catches for 82 yards and a score, pushing his season total to an FBS-best 21 touchdown receptions.
Senior running back Shawne Alston was the key for a Mountaineers’ rushing attack that tallied 239 yards in the victory. Alston carried 19 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, and it was his three-yard gain on third-and-three with less than two minutes remaining that put the Cyclones’ hopes of a comeback to rest.
Alston’s performance was one Holgorsen had expected, given his strong week of practice leading up to the game.
"I kind of did (expect it); his week leading up to the game was a lot better than it has been. With him back there, he makes us better," he said.
"He’s got to be healthy in order for that to be the case … but he’s worked hard in rehab to getting himself back to where he can be productive and help the team, which he did tonight."
Senior kicker Tyler Bitancurt turned in one of the strongest performances of his career, connecting on 3-of-4 field goal tries in the frigid, windy game conditions.
Bitancurt’s 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter allowed West Virginia to reclaim the lead it lost to Iowa State in the third quarter – the first time the Mountaineers trailed in the game.
Iowa State freshman quarterback Sam Richardson became the Mountaineers’ first opposing quarterback since South Florida’s B.J. Daniels (2009) to rush for more than 100 yards in a single game; he finished the contest with 18 carries for 119 yards and completed 13-of-31 passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns.
In the end the Mountaineers’ defense was the driving factor behind the win that snapped West Virginia’s five-game losing streak.