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Hugs and tears: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads shares emotions with players after final game


MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Paul Rhoads put on a construction worker's hard hat with the Iowa State logo, exchanged well wishes with West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen on the field and jogged to the visitor's locker room one last time.

Rhoads shared long hugs and shed some tears with his players after the Cyclones lost to West Virginia 30-6 on Saturday. The Iowa State coach was fired last Sunday but was allowed to lead one more game. He bows out with a career record of 32-55.

Rhoads exchanged his customary baseball cap for the hard hat at the end of the game, saying it was a symbol of his time with the Cyclones.

"We're a blue-collar program," Rhoads said. "For seven years I put my hard hat on and gone to work. It's what we stand for and what we represent, what the people of Iowa represent."

Rhoads said he enjoyed one final moment walking off the field with his son, Wyatt, an Iowa State wide receiver.

"Special. He's my blood," Rhoads said. "I got 130 sons that are a part of that program. Their parents, their families entrusted us with them and the head coach is at the top of that heap. Helped raise them, help them grow and mature as they have and they do. It is special with every single one of them."

Iowa State wide receiver Quenton Bundrage said seeing his coach walk off the field for the last time "definitely wasn't a good feeling.

"Knowing that that was his last game being the head coach and that we didn't get him the 'W,' I really feel bad for him. I really appreciate coach Rhoads and everything he's done for me and the program."

Iowa State, with two field goals, was limited to 284 total yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season. The Cyclones (3-9, 2-7) went winless on the road, something that hadn't happened since 2008.

PHOTO: Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads hugs offensive lineman Jamison Lalk (76) after an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads hugs offensive lineman Jamison Lalk (76) after an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Skyler Howard threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score while Josh Lambert kicked three field goals for West Virginia (7-4, 4-4). It marked the final home game for West Virginia's 20 seniors, who sang John Denver's "Country Roads" on their field together one final time in a light rain.

The Mountaineers held an opponent out of the end zone for the third time this season, including two shutouts.

"I couldn't be prouder of our defense," Holgorsen said. "They played spectacular. I don't think it's a coincidence that the seniors we talk about are on that side of the ball."

West Virginia won its fourth straight and finishes the regular season at Kansas State next Saturday.

K.J. Dillon's interception on Iowa State's opening series set up Howard's scoring toss to Shelton Gibson, who took a short pass and weaved his way across the field for a 60-yard TD.

"When I cut it back, I said, 'I think I'm gone.' It was a great feeling," Gibson said.

Gibson finished with six catches for 148 yards. He also had a 53-yard kickoff return to set up a field goal.

Howard went 12 of 26 for 202 yards and led the Mountaineers in rushing with 73 yards.

After averaging just 2.7 yards per carry well into the third quarter, the Mountaineers ran the ball six straight times on an 83-yard drive, with Howard going 32 yards up the middle to put West Virginia ahead 23-6.

The Cyclones, who had converted two fake punts on the same drive in the second quarter, tried it again on fourth down from their own 15 early in the fourth quarter, but backup quarterback Sam Richardson threw incomplete from the punt formation. West Virginia took advantage of the gift with Rushel Shell scoring from 9 yards out for a 30-6 lead.

Mike Warren, the nation's top freshman rusher, led Iowa State with 74 yards, but he didn't get a carry over the final five series. He finished the season with 1,339 yards.

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