|Tavon Austin's speed took over in the fourth quarter on Friday in Ames. (US Presswire)|
Thunder returned. Lightning struck. And West Virginia finally won again.
The five-game losing streak ended on Friday in Ames, Iowa, Shawne Alston (the thunder), Tavon Austin (the lightning) and an unfortunately timed Iowa State fumble gave the Mountaineers a 31-24 win, their first since Oct. 6.
What the Cyclones came away thinking was what the Oklahoma Sooners could have told them: Chasing around Austin is hard. Chasing Austin for four quarters is nearly impossible.
Austin scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 75-yard catch that was the easiest scoring pass Geno Smith will ever throw. Austin came in motion on the play, and as soon as Smith caught the shotgun snap, he flipped the ball to Austin, who got to the corner and slipped through a couple Cyclones on his way to the end zone.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen admitted after Austin ran away from Oklahoma last week for 344 rushing yards that he probably should have moved his highlight-waiting-to-happen to running back much sooner. But the Cyclones proved Austin could be contained with a week to prepare.
Well, contained for three quarters.
Austin ran for only 44 yards in the first three quarters, and it wasn't his running that ended up burning the Cyclones. Not only did Austin score out of the slot, he also found the end zone on a punt return in the fourth quarter that was called back because of a hold that he didn't need. Still, that put West Virginia at the Iowa State 36-yard line, which resulted in a go-ahead field goal to put WVU up 23-21.
As has typically been the case this season, the West Virginia defense could not hold the lead and Iowa State went back in front on a Edwin Arceo 49-yard field goal.
Following Austin's touchdown, the Cyclones marched down the field again and were in position to take back the lead when RB Jeff Woody had the ball knocked loose, which the Mountaineers recovered in the end zone. Three West Virginia first downs later and the game was over.
The significance of those first downs cannot be glossed over for the Mountaineers (6-5, 3-5 Big 12), who were able to run out the clock by running the ball with Austin and Alston. That was a ground attack that was missing in Big 12 play until last week.
Alston was a factor for the first time since Week 2. He has either not played or barely been a part of the game plan because of a thigh bruise. Against Iowa State, Alston went for 130 yards and a touchdown. In the past two weeks, West Virginia has rushed for 458 and 239 yards. In the first six Big 12 games, the Mountaineers averaged 119.5 rushing yards per game, which ranked ninth in the conference.
The presence and threat of a run helped Smith manage the game instead of having to win it by himself. Smith was 22 of 31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns on a windy day in Ames.
The Cyclones (6-6, 3-6) will await a bowl invite with their regular season finished. The future looks a little brighter in Ames with redshirt freshman QB Sam Richardson. Last week, Richardson came on in relief and torched Kansas for four touchdowns. On Friday, Richardson's passing numbers did not overwhelm -- 13 of 31 for 162 yards and three touchdowns -- but he was effective because of his ability to improvise, running for 119 yards on mostly scrambles.
West Virginia has the closest thing to a sure victory to finish the season Dec. 1 with Kansas coming to Morgantown. The Jayhawks will have to prepare for Austin and Alston.
A full repertoire the rest of the Big 12 should be happy it missed.
(For statistics and recap of the game, go here)
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).