AMES, Iowa – Iowa State wore its “black out” uniforms on Saturday night, but West Virginia wishes it could be the one blacking out right now.
“We’re going to get rid of this game,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said with assurance.
The No. 6 Mountaineers showed up at Jack Trice Stadium never having trailed in a game this season, and left looking nothing like a team deserving of the Top 25, much less the Top 10, in a 30-14 smashing by the Cyclones.
The Mountaineers (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) were limited to 152 total yards on offense – their worst single-game output since 1995.
“We didn’t do anything right. We didn’t make good decisions. We didn’t call good plays. We didn’t play with effort. We didn’t block.” Holgorsen said. “They didn’t come up with any magical plays… I’ve got to do a better job of coaching offense.”
The biggest problem was third down.
The Mountaineers came into the game as the fourth-best offense in the nation on third down, while the Cyclones defense checked in at a miserable 118. West Virginia finished the game 1-for-10 on third downs, thanks largely to the fact it faced an average distance of 9.2 yards to gain.
“We weren’t very efficient, and a big part was playing behind the chains the entire game,” said offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.
Third-down success wasn’t the only thing that proved to be an optical illusion against the Cyclones.
West Virginia came to Ames believing it had the best player in the country, but the three best players on the field Saturday night – if not more – were all wearing Iowa State’s special all-black uniforms.
There was the best quarterback on the field, true freshman Brock Purdy. Purdy sliced and diced the Mountaineers defense for 254 yards on 18 of 25 passing in his second career start.
There was the best wide receiver on the field, 6-foot-6 Hakeem Butler, who laughed off West Virginia’s man-to-man coverage on his six catches for 107 yards.
And then there was perhaps the top player of them all, running back David Montgomery, who ground the defense into a pulp for a career-best 189 yards on 29 carries.
Meanwhile, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier’s Heisman Trophy hopes are probably buried in a cornfield somewhere next to Joe Pesci’s character from the movie “Casino.”
Grier was rendered a non-factor by the Cyclones defense, shoddy blocking and an insistence on waiting for deep pass plays to develop when Iowa State had everything downfield blanketed. He finished the game 11 of 15 for 115 yards and an interception.
The moment that best summed up Grier’s night took place when Iowa State already had the win in its back pocket.
Facing a third-and-24 at his own 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Grier backpedaled into the Mountaineers’ end zone as he fruitlessly searched for a play to develop down field. None ever did, giving left tackle Yodny Cajuste no choice but to hold a Cyclone defender in the end zone so as to prevent his quarterback from getting creamed for an eighth sack. The penalty resulted in a safety that provided the final margin.
The play was symbolic of the game as a whole.
“Receivers were having trouble getting open. Will took some unnecessary sacks when he was out of the pocket. At that point, chuck it away and let’s move on to the next play,” Spavital said. “We talked about that all week, too. They’ll drop eight and cover you. Extend it, be smart, take what they give you. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job with that.”