It wasn’t an ideal situation for the WVU offense late in the fourth quarter, clinging to a 20-16 lead after the Mountaineers’ defense made the stop of the season.

Running back Kennedy McKoy was blown up in the backfield at the Iowa State 42-yard line for a minus-5 yard carry. On the next play, quarterback Will Grier tossed the ball left to McKoy in the flat, but McKoy was again dropped for a loss, this time for minus-2 yards.

The Mountaineers stared at third and 17 from the Cyclones’ 44-yard line with a four-point lead. It was a likely passing down, but with no ISU timeouts left, WVU could run the ball, running the clock down, then punt it back to give ISU one last chance deep in its own territory.

It ended up being the best of both worlds for head coach Dana Holgorsen.

Iowa State was expecting the pass, and when Grier dropped back out of the shotgun to throw, the middle of the field opened up, and Grier handed the ball to McKoy on a draw play. McKoy bounced through the hole, burst to the outside and battled for the first-down marker at the 23-yard line. He dived to stay in bounds — not succeeding — but that was the only negative of the play. It was a first down that allowed WVU to beat its first top 15 team at home in three years.

“I didn’t really want to throw that in fears of an incompletion,” Holgorsen said. “They took the bait. Kennedy made a good run. We were close to four-down territory right there, but I didn’t really want to have an incompletion and give them 40 more seconds to deal with. Yeah, it was a heck of a run.”

It was a play that sent 55,831 fans in attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium into a frenzy. It was a type of play that was lacking in losses to Virginia Tech and TCU. It was a play that gave the Mountaineers their sixth win and made them bowl eligible. It was a break that WVU finally got.

“I was just thinking ‘Run clock,’ ” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “I thought that was the safest play because I figured they would be believing we’d be going for the first down. We never should have been in that situation in the first place, but it’s good to see us execute that cleanly and McKoy fought for those extra yards.”

McKoy was the third option at running back behind Justin Crawford and Martell Pettaway on Saturday. McKoy had four carries in the first half for 15 yards, but ended with 12 carries for 60 yards.

When trying to kill the clock, having a running back who doesn’t go down on first contact and gets three or four more yards than he should is critical, and McKoy has become that person for the Mountaineers. He did it in the comeback win against Texas Tech and during the close call at Baylor.

“It definitely makes it easier to call plays,” Spavital said. “When you’re moving the chains like that and he’s fighting for those extra yards, it puts us in position where we don’t have to go spread. It just makes the game easier to call when you’re effective in the run game.”

Sean Manning is a sports writer for The Dominion Post. Email him at smanning@dominionpost.com.