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WVU undone by ‘weird turnovers’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even when West Virginia’s offense piled up 568 yards, it produced enough mistakes to keep Iowa State in the game.

A goal-line fumble on which Wendell Smallwood seemingly stretched the ball across the plane. A Vernon Davis Jr. catch-and-fumble that gave ISU the ball at the Mountaineers’ 38. And in the final three minutes, a Clint Trickett interception that reached Kevin White’s hands only to be wrestled away by Jacques Washington at the WVU 33.

“They were weird turnovers. Weird game,” said Trickett, who also threw an interception on an end-of-regulation Hail Mary from the Iowa State 44.

Boxscore: Iowa State 52, WVU 44

Even as weird mistakes surrounded him, Trickett played one of his better games: He completed 21-of-37 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. Gone were the ill-advised throws into coverage that haunted him throughout the season. Surfacing was an acumen for optioning out of bad plays into good ones. Such an occurrence came on a run call that Trickett fired to Mario Alford for a 76-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

That score staked West Virginia to a 38-21 lead. But it also marked WVU’s final touchdown as Iowa State rallied.

In their first two overtime possessions, Trickett and the offense managed two field goals. In the third OT, needing to reach the end zone, West Virginia’s final shot ended at the Cyclones 2-yard line with another weird play—Daikiel Shorts lunging to catch a batted-up pass and being dropped by Iowa State defensive back Deon Broomfield.

“Tough game,” Trickett said. “Tough to end on that and go into the offseason.”

Even after the game, WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson wasn’t sure what transpired on Washington’s sideline interception with 2:46 left that set up Iowa State’s tying touchdown. The replay he saw in the coaching box didn’t reveal much—other than White getting his hands on the ball before tangling with the defensive back, who came up with the turnover.

Dawson described the third-and-10 call as “a pretty safe play” that should have been either a completion or throwaway leading to a punt.

“It’s a seven-point game and a punt’s not bad there,” Dawson said. “You punt it and at least they have to drive the whole field with three minutes left. But we give them a short field, and you can’t do that. Bad timing. Bad, bad timing.”

“It was a rough year and that game was pretty indicative of the whole year.”

West Virginia had its highest-scoring game of the season and it’s second-highest yardage total, yet it continued to struggle on third downs (4-of-16). For the season, WVU converted only 32 percent of third-down tries.

The Mountaineers also failed on both fourth-down tries and ended the year 4-of-18 in that category.

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