"It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season."
Those were the words of head coach Dana Holgorsen following a triple overtime loss to Iowa State on Saturday.
The Mountaineers fell to 4-8 after a loss on Senior Day to the Cyclones. If the loss wasn't already enough, add another blown lead. This time West Virginia surrendered a 17-point lead to a 2-9 Iowa State team.
In the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, the Cyclones erased a 10-point deficit to force overtime. Both teams traded field goals in the first two overtimes. In the third, Iowa State needed just one play to get points. The Cyclones were forced into going for a two-point conversion, and were successful. The score put the Mountaineers in a do or die situation for the second time in the last three games.
Mario Alford would catch a pass on the first play of the possession to get WVU all the way down to the ISU 4. Despite the good field position, the Mountaineers were unable to cash in. The Cyclones walked away with a 52-44 victory over West Virginia.
The game was once again a story of inconsistency. In the first half the WVU defense was dominate on third down. The Cyclones were 1 of 7 on third down conversions if the first half. In the second half and the three overtimes, Iowa State was 9 of 13. After the game, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson reflected on not only the game, but the season as a whole.
"It seemed to take the similar theme we've had all season," said Patterson. "Third down conversions cost us. We allowed some big plays in the second half that were catastrophic."
The final 10 minutes of regulation seemed to take the life out of the Mountaineers. The Cyclones seemed to be clicking on all cylinders, while the wheels fell off for WVU. While it took three overtimes to decide the victor, senior linebacker Doug Rigg says those last ten minutes were crucial to deciding the outcome.
"Everything that could've gone wrong went wrong in the fourth quarter," said Rigg. "We had to overcome that, but we didn't."
On offense, WVU was far from consistent. Clint Trickett returned as starter, but that did not matter. After scoring 31 first half points as a team, the Mountaineers were held to seven in the second half. While the offense finished with 568 yards of offense, WVU was 4 of 16 on third down conversions for the game. No matter how many yards are put up, only converting 25 percent of the time is not good enough to get the job done.
The loss put a cap on what has been a disappointing year. But instead of dwelling on the loss look at the positives that came from this season.
It would be a severe mistake to not mention Charles Sims. In one season as a Mountaineer, Sims had his career best total in rushing yards. The Houston transfer broke the 1,000 yard mark for the first time of his career on Saturday night, finishing with 149 yards on 24 carries against the Cyclones. With the 149 yards, Sims finished the season with a total of 1,095 rushing yards Sims was grateful for the accomplishment after the game, but wishes they could have gone out with a win.
"It's a great accomplishment," said Sims. "Just wish we would've won that game."
While 4-8 is not acceptable for any college football fan, the Mountaineers learned a lot this season about the future. The program needs time to develop. It is certainly frustrating to watch, but this is part of having a young team.
One final positive note to end this season is the senior class. The 14 seniors that played their final game on Saturday had a tremendous impact on the team. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson thanked the seniors in the locker room after a tough loss.
"I just told those guys we appreciate everything they've done, and what they've done for this program," said Patterson.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said he apologized to his seniors after the game.
"I told them I'm sorry," said Dawson. "I wish this season and this game would have gone better for these guys."
The Mountaineers will now look to fix the kinks during the off-season before facing Alabama to open the 2014 season.