MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shelton Gibson snapped out of a month-long slump with a career-high 148 receiving yards, Josh Lambert kicked three field goals and West Virginia’s defense forced three turnovers on a rainy senior day in a 30-6 victory over Iowa State.
“I’m proud as heck for our seniors,” said coach Dana Holgorsen. “It was kind of a blah day out there, but it’s something they’ll remember. We got to seven wins and some people didn’t think we would do that.”
Quarterback Skyler Howard put the game away with a 32-yard touchdown keeper though West Virginia (7-4. 4-4) didn’t produce its typically effective ground game. Running back Wendell Smallwood finished with 72 yards on 15 carries—more than 50 yards off his per-game average, but enough to overtake Baylor’s Shock Linwood for the Big 12 rushing lead.
Gibson was stellar, turning a short hitch into a 60-yard touchdown on West Virginia’s second drive. He also caught a 52-yarder and returned a kickoff 53 yards, both leading to field goals.
In their final game under fired coach Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones (3-9, 2-7) managed only two Cole Netten field goals and a season-low 284 yards.
With little to play for, Iowa State converted two fake punts during a 7-minute drive in the first half. In the fourth quarter, a third fake on fourth-and-14 inside the Cyclones’ own 20 resulted in an incompletion, and West Virginia promptly punched in a 9-yard touchdown by Rushel Shell.
“Sort of a dreary day in Morgantown to finish up a tremendous seven-year run,” Rhoads said. “We tried to pull out a few things to help us gain momentum at times and take advantage of that, and we fully didn’t get it done.”
Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning threw two interceptions and completed 17-of-34 passes for 163 yards, while Mike Warren—after six 100-yard games this season—was held to 74 yards on 19 carries.
“We’ve been eliminating big plays,” said Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, whose unit hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters. “Holding this Iowa State team to six points and under 300 yards? Nobody’s done that to them.”
Howard finished 12-of-26 passing for 202 yards and narrowly missed connecting with Shelton Gibson on several other deep throws, including one bomb the receiver momentarily cradled on a diving attempt at the goal line.
“I had to watch that ball bounce away and I was like, ‘Awwww no,'” Gibson said. “Even the ref came up to me and said ‘You had it all the way down, buddy, and then the ground smacked you.'”
Joked Holgorsen: “I kidded Shelton on the sideline that we threw it to him enough to have about 250.”