It took a little longer — okay, a lot longer — than West Virginia was hoping, but the Mountaineers are in fact going to a bowl game this season. It wasn’t pretty, though.
WVU was one of the hot teams in college football for the month of September. The Mountaineers were ranked fifth in the country and Geno Smith was the runaway leader in the Heisman discussion. Then the Mountaineers got blown out by Texas Tech, starting a five-game losing streak.
Part of the problem for West Virginia during that time was the defense. Giving up 42 points per game heading into Friday’s match against Iowa State was costing WVU when the offense wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. That problem was thanks in part to the absence of running back Shawne Alston, who has been hampered with a thigh bruise. But against the Cyclones today, Alston rumbled for 130 yards and a touchdown while still visibly limited with his injury.
Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin, who rushed for over 300 yards in last week’s loss to Oklahoma, had 74 yards on the ground. Austin’s big play came on a 75-yard “pass” — a forward toss from Smith that was lethal against Clemson in last January’s Orange Bowl — to put the Mountaineers up 31-24. That would be the final score of the game.
(Austin also had a punt return for a touchdown. However, that was called back because of a hold, proving that while WVU is still struggling to stop opposing offenses, it has no problem stopping its most electric playmaker.)
WVU is now 6-5 and finishes the season at home against Kansas. A win against the Jayhawks would likely put WVU in the Holliday Bowl against a Pac-12 opponent (Rich Rodriguez‘s Arizona Wildcats perhaps?).