Howard Rallies WVU Past Iowa State

In his first start, West Virginia sophomore quarterback Skyler Howard led the Mountaineers to a 37-24 victory over Iowa State on Saturday to end a three-game losing slump.

The dual-threat signal caller finished with 285 yards through the air and 72 on the ground. He threw three touchdowns including a decisive strike with less than 10 minutes to play to give the Mountaineers their first double-digit lead over the Cylcones. Regular starting quarterback Clint Trickett was ruled out of the game due to a concussion he suffered in last week’s loss to Kansas State.

It was the first win for West Virginia since October, as the Mountaineers moved to 7-5 and finished the regular season with a winning record in the Big 12 Conference since it moved from the Big East in 2012.

After missing out on a bowl game last season, West Virginia will now wait to find out who it will face in the postseason this year. WVU had been bowl eligible since October.

In total, the West Virginia offense had its best performance since its upset over Baylor. The Mountaineers recorded 561 total yards, 285 through the air and 276 on the ground.

Running back Rushel Shell was at his best on Saturday. He finished with a season-high 146 yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown on his season-long 54-yard carry in the first quarter.

Receiver Mario Alford also had his most productive game in a while. He finished with 86 yards on five catches and hauled in two touchdown catches from Howard.

After a successful start to the game by Iowa State, the Mountaineers’ defense was able to settle in and hold Iowa State to just three points after it took a 21-7 lead early on in the contest.

West Virginia’s offense took charge early, as Shell ran throw a wide-open hole near midfield on third and three for a 54-yard touchdown run for the Mountaineers. Shell’s longest rush of the year gave WVU a 7-0 lead. The run was WVU’s first of 50 yards or more this season.

WVU’s defense had a bit of trouble stopping Iowa State on the first drive. Running back Aaron Wimberly scored a three-yard touchdown to tie the game three minutes after the Mountaineers had taken the lead.

After a missed field goal from Josh Lambert, Iowa State’s offense put together another solid drive, this one of 11 plays and 69 yards that ended in a touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Richardson to Wimberly to take a 14-7 lead over the Mountaineers.

WVU’s defense forced a punt on Iowa State’s next offensive possession, but on the first play of the drive for the West Virginia offense, running back Dreamius Smith coughed up the ball, and it was recovered by the Cyclones. Three plays later, Iowa State would go up 21-7 after a 29-yard hook up for a score from Richardson to receiver Tad Ecby, who beat WVU cornerback Daryl Worley.

Howard threw a dart to Alford down the field for a 29-yard touchdown to cut the Mountaineers’ deficit to 21-14 with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

WVU would tie the game up shortly after on the same connection. Howard hit Alford on a four-yard touchdown, as the quarterback chose to keep the ball on a shotgun option play, and he found Alford running a slant for the score to make it 21-21.

Lambert booted a 46-yard field goal to give WVU a 24-21 lead, its first one since it was 7-0 Lambert added a 32-yard field goal to end the half and give the Mountaineers a 27-21 advantage.

WVU had 349 yards of total offense in the first half and doubled up Iowa State in first downs. It scored 20 straight points after trailing 21-7.

Iowa State ended the strong string of points for the Mountaineers on its first drive of the second half, as the Cyclones scored on a 34-yard field goal.

The Mountaineers were caught off guard late in the third quarter, as Iowa State decided to fake a field goal on a fourth down and converted it successfully. WVU would come back to make a huge play to start the fourth quarter, though, as Richardson’s pass was intercepted by cornerback Terrell Chestnut in the end zone.

On a fourth-and-five at the Iowa State 34-yard line, the Mountaineers decided to go for it, and Howard threw an incompletion on a deep ball to receiver Kevin White, who was not at his best on Saturday. However, the WVU defense was up to the challenge and forced Iowa State into a three-and-out.

On a third-and-five on the next drive, Howard threw a strike on a slant to Alford, and he ran 35 yards after the catch to put the ball at the Iowa State 30-yard line. A few plays later, Howard connected with sophomore Daikiel Shorts on a 15-yard touchdown to take a 34-24 lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

Lambert hit a 44-yard field goal to take a 37-24 lead with 5:35 to play.

WVU safety Karl Joseph picked off Richardson with 2:17 to play to secure the victory.

A late fumble by Howard would keep things interesting, but the Mountaineers had enough of a strangle hold on the game to not worry much about an Iowa State comeback.

Richardson threw for 275 yards in the game. Wimberly had 77 yards rushing.

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