MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia was already guaranteed to spend the offseason without a bowl trip or a winning record, and now the last taste in the Mountaineers' mouths from 2013 will be yet another bitter loss.
Of course, given the way the season went, that should come as a surprise to almost no one.
"It was,'' Dana Holgorsen said, "a disappointing end to a disappointing season.''
Pretty much summarizing its season in a nutshell, West Virginia blew a 24-point first half lead and a 17-point lead in the final 10 minutes Saturday against equally awful Iowa State. After allowing the Cyclones to tie the game at 38, WVU lost 52-44 in three overtimes.
The loss came in front of a crowd of just 33,735 that included only a few hundred students during Thanksgiving break. It was the third-smallest crowd in the stadium's 34-year history and the smallest since 27,751 showed up for a season finale against Louisiana Tech in 1992.
With the loss, West Virginia finished 4-8 overall and 2-7 in its second season in the Big 12. It is the first time since 2001 (3-8) that WVU has failed to have a winning record and play in a bowl game.
Iowa State finished an even worse season, although on a higher note. The Cyclones (3-9, 2-7) won only against Tulsa and Kansas this season before beating WVU.
Once again, West Virginia's chief issues were turnovers and defensive breakdowns in the second half. For the fifth time in the last six games, the Mountaineers lost a second-half lead and for the fourth time it cost them a win. WVU had second-half leads in games against Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Texas and Iowa State and beat only TCU. Three of those games - TCU and Texas were the others - went into overtime.
In the end, the game came down to simple execution in overtime. After trading field goals in the first two overtimes to make it 44-all, ISU quarterback Grant Rohach hit Justin Coleman for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the third overtime and then connected with E.J. Bibbs on the mandatory 2-point conversion to give the Cyclones a 52-44 lead.
West Virginia then got 22 yards on its first play in the third overtime on a pass from Clint Trickett to Charles Sims, but then couldn't score in four plays with first-and-goal from the 3. Trickett's final pass to Daikiel Shorts was nearly intercepted and short of the goal line.
From West Virginia's point of view, though, the game should never have gotten to overtime. Leading 38-21 with 10 minutes to play, the Mountaineers turned the ball over twice in their own end and didn't make a defensive stop. Iowa State scored on a 62-yard pass from Rohach to Quenton Bundrage, then converted a Vernon Davis fumble into a field goal and a Trickett interception into Rohach's 19-yard tying touchdown pass to Coleman with a minute to play.
"We turned it over in the worst possible situation,'' offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, speaking generally of both the late turnovers but specifically the third-down interception by Jacques Washington with 2:46 to play. "A punt's not a bad play there. If we don't turn the ball over, we win the game.''