West Virginia shuts down Iowa State in Paul Rhoads' last game as Cyclones coach

Can't catch Gibson

West Virginia WR Shelton Gibson races across the field out running Iowa State defenders on his way to a 60-yard touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead.

West Virginia brought a rough end to the Paul Rhoads era at Iowa State with a dominant 30-6 victory over the Cyclones in Morgantown. Here’s what we learned:

What the win means for West Virginia: The Mountaineers are quietly becoming a pretty hot team, one that should merit top-25 consideration by season’s end. They’ve won four in a row after losing their first four Big 12 games and they’re playing excellent defense right now. West Virginia’s D forced three turnovers, recorded five sacks and held Iowa State to 3.5 yards per play and 2.3 yards per rush. This team is rolling and can finish 8-4 with a win at Kansas State next week.

What the loss means for Iowa State: A rough ending to an already rough week for Iowa State. The Cyclones put up a fight early on in Rhoads’ final game as head coach but had no luck moving the ball. West Virginia turned two Joel Lanning interceptions in the first half into 10 points, and running back Mike Warren missed much of the second half with a back injury. The Cyclones finish 3-9 and have lost 26 of their last 31 Big 12 games heading into this coaching change. The seven-year Rhoads era ends with a record of 32-55, 16-45 in Big 12 play. The next head coach is inheriting some exciting young talent on offense. They just didn’t have it on Saturday.

The game turned when … West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard busted a relatively tight game open in the middle of the third quarter on a 32-yard touchdown dash. That made it 23-6, which seemed even more insurmountable when Joshua Thomas lost a fumble on Iowa State’s ensuring drive. Howard threw for 202 yards, rushed for 73 yards and is putting together a nice finish to this season after a few rocky starts early on in Big 12 play.

Uh, what? You definitely can’t blame Rhoads for trying all the tricks he had left in his playbook on Saturday. Why not go all-in for your final game as head coach? So Rhoads called three fake punts on the day, including two on one first-half drive. Both succeeded thanks to backup punter Holden Kramer, who logged a 3-yard run and a 5-yard pass. The third fake was Rhoads' craziest attempt -- Iowa State faced fourth-and-14 at its own 16-yard line, and backup QB Sam B. Richardson served as the fake punter -- and didn't work out, but you have to appreciate Rhoads' effort to have a little fun.