AMES, Iowa — Iowa State had everything going its way for first 18 minutes of its home finale.
Then the offense went into a shell, West Virginia put together a couple of quick scoring drives and the Mountaineers rolled to a 37-24 victory on Saturday, keeping the Cyclones winless in the Big 12.
Backup quarterback Skyler Howard threw three TD passes and Rushel Shell ran for 146 yards for West Virginia (7-5, 5-4), which rallied after Iowa State (2-9, 0-8) zipped to a 21-7 lead.
Some West Virginia adjustments on defense foiled the Cyclones, who managed only three points the rest of the way.
"They started really dropping people into coverage to take advantage of certain down and distance situations when they knew we had to throw the ball," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "And they were eating up our run game, which was almost non-existent.
"We were having trouble picking out combinations and identifying where to get the ball. Nice job by their defense."
Howard was 21 of 40 for 285 yards in his first career start in place of Clint Trickett, who missed the game with a concussion. Mario Alford added two TD catches for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers erased their early 14-point deficit by closing the game on a 30-3 run. They went up 34-24 with 9:10 left on a 15-yard TD catch by Daikiel Shorts.
"They didn't really change what they were doing too much," defensive end Dale Pierson said. "They're a good football team. They were just executing what they do."
Sam Richardson threw for 275 yards and two TDs for Iowa State, which lost its fifth straight and has won only twice at home in the past two seasons.
The Cyclones had their chances though.
Iowa State appeared poised to at least tie the game at 27 after a spectacular catch by freshman Allen Lazard — who juggled the ball about a half-dozen times before corralling it — and a successful fake field goal.
But Richardson floated a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Terrell Chestnut to open the fourth quarter.
"We've had a few occasions where we got a momentum swing like that and really have a chance with a defense on their heels to push in and take advantage of it," Rhoads said. "In the end, they played a certain coverage and dropped into it and we weren't able to identify it and threw it in there. That's the chess game football is and they played that move better."
Alford then answered Lazard's catch with a juggling 40-yard reception, setting up the TD grab by Shorts. Josh Lambert's 43-yard field goal with 5:35 left put the Mountaineers ahead 37-24.
Iowa State played without standout E.J. Bibbs, who injured his leg in last week's loss to Texas Tech. Bibbs entered the weekend ranked first among Power 5 tight ends with eight TD receptions.
Rhoads is uncertain if Bibbs will play in next Saturday's finale at No. 6 TCU. With that game looming, the Cyclones face the prospect of going without a conference victory for the first time since 2008.
The Cyclones certainly missed him. They managed just a single field goal on 10 possessions after going up 21-7.
Iowa State's losing streak, coupled with the fact that its students were still on Thanksgiving break, made for a lackluster atmosphere at Jack Trice Stadium. But the Mountaineers and Cyclones did all they could to entertain the fans who did show up.
Shell turned a short rush up the middle into a 54-yard TD run, giving the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead just 2:10 into play. But Aaron Wimberly ran for a touchdown and caught a pass for another and Richardson found Ecby along the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
"We were just clicking as an offense (at that point)," tackle Jake Campos said. "Sam had time to throw, the offensive line was picking them up, the running backs were hitting the seams."
But after that?
"They changed up their pressure a little bit," he said. "I think a lot of it was we just weren't hitting those seams like we were in the first half."