Oct 30, 2021; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell along the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
One angle showed that Breece Hall’s knee touched the turf short of the goal line.
Another revealed that his elbow hit across the plane — and before the football skittered out.
But replay couldn’t save No. 22 Iowa State from a bizarre (to put it mildly) fumble call late in Saturday’s 38-31 loss at West Virginia.
if anything, the fact that what seemed to be clear video evidence didn’t overturn the call on the field added extra pain to the already stinging loss that likely extinguished the No. 22 Cyclones’ (5-3, 3-2) hopes of reaching the Big 12 title game.
In a word: Frustrating. In many other more colorful words: Unpublishable. But ISU had its chances and simply couldn’t stop the Mountaineers (4-4, 2-3) with enough regularity to make controversial calls moot with respect to the game’s outcome.
“Give them credit,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said on the Cyclone Radio Network’s postgame show. “Hat’s off to West Virginia. They made a couple more plays than we were able to make and at the end of the day that’s really where the finality of this game comes to.”
Mountaineers quarterback Jarret Doege torched ISU’s secondary for 370 yards and three touchdowns, but he was picked off twice — including a pick-six from linebacker Jake Hummel.
West Virginia converted 9 of 15 third downs and a fourth and three for a touchdown while building a nine-minute edge in time of possessions.
Whenever they needed a play, someone made it.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, the same couldn’t be said for them — despite two long touchdowns from Hall and quarterback Brock Purdy, who hit Tarique Milton for a 68-yard scoring strike that put ISU up 14-7 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
“We’d just make big plays, score, and then allow them to come back and create momentum,” said Purdy, who complete 16 of 27 passes for 185 yards and also rushed for a season-high 64 yards. “I just feel like it was almost like a catch-up game. They were doing something, now we’ve got to do something, rather than going and taking the game ourselves and running with it. We failed in that area and we’ve just got to get better in that sense.”
ISU clearly missed All-American linebacker Mike Rose, who sat out after sustaining an injury late in last week’s win over Oklahoma State. Rose had started 45 consecutive games, but his absence can’t fully explain how the Mountaineers were able to put up 38 points on a Cyclone defense that entered the game allowing just 17 points per contest.
It was a perplexing day all around, from ISU’s performance to a series of pivotal calls officials made that heavily favored West Virginia.
One touchdown in which the Mountaineers’ Bryce Ford-Wheaton didn’t appear to have a toe in bounds was reviewed and upheld. Another — the fourth and three play that gave West Virginia its winning margin — came after TV replays clearly showed the play clock had expired.
Still, if the Cyclones had simply made more plays on both sides of the ball, all of that adversity would have been overcome. ISU also went 2 for 12 on third down conversions and was outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter. ISU was able to drive inside the Mountaineers’ 30, but a Hail Mary pass as time expired failed.
“I just don’t think we ever found that rhythm that we play in,” Campbell said. “We were a little bit disjointed, I think, all the way around in terms of the rhythm.”
Hall certainly did his part, though, rushing for 167 yards on 24 carries. The Cyclones outgained the Mountaineers 239 yards to 122 on the ground and had six tackles for loss.
“There are so many guys who did so many positive things and I think that’s what’s hard,” Campbell said. “That’s what’s hard about losing a game like this because there’s a lot of huge plays that had an opportunity to be made and we made them, and yet we left some things out there. That part’s disappointing.”
ISU will try to get back on track next Saturday when Texas (4-4, 2-3) comes to Jack Trice Stadium.
“That’s the beauty of a college football season, is it’s a season,” Campbell said. “It’s not defined by one game. It’s defined by who you are at the end of the season and there’s still a lot of definition left for this team and this program. Boy, I’m really excited. Like I told our kids, there’s no group I’d rather continue to fight with and continue to lead with than this group. So what an honor and we’ll be back.”