Banks’ INT a Key Moment for ’Eers

MORGANTOWN – On the bus ride to Mountaineer Field on Saturday, Ishmael “Icky'” Banks sat with his headphones on and kept repeating to himself one thing.

“All I said to myself is make a play,”‘ the redshirt junior noted. “Do something that would help this team win.”

In the first quarter, he did.

On a second-and-10 from his 49, Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh took the snap, dropped back and threw the ball right into Banks’ hands. The cornerback then zig-zagged his way through the Cowboys offense and returned the ball 58 yards and dove into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter.

“It was a dream come true, honestly,”‘ the Richmond, Va., native said. “It was my first one in college. I had one in high school and that was it. Doing it on this stage, it means a lot to me.”

Scoring his first collegiate touchdown, however, wasn’t the first thing that went through his mind when he got his hands on the ball.

“Honestly, I was just looking for running room,” Banks said. “Coach usually tells us to go up the sideline, so after I kinda got in the middle (of the field) I thought I better score or I’m going to get cussed out.”

The early pick helped prove the point the West Virginia defense wanted to make early on against the No. 11-ranked Cowboys.

“We had seen an Oklahoma blog saying they were going to put up 600 or something,” Banks said. “That just made the chip on our shoulder grow a little bit more. We were like, ‘they don’t know what they’re talking about. They haven’t seen our defense. Haven’t they been watching our games?’ We just needed to play sound football and not give up any easy stuff. That’s exactly what we did.”

The Mountaineers defense held Oklahoma State to a season-low 18 first downs, forced five three-and-outs, and only allowed six third-down conversations out of 20 attempts in addition to giving up 21 points to the nation’s 10th best scoring offense.

“We wanted to shut them out, really,” Banks said. “But, it’s college football. That’s how it goes. Especially in the Big 12.

“The most important thing we wanted to do was get the win. We’ve got to do a better job of helping our offense out. That’s not what we’ve been doing. We’ve been getting three-and-outs, but we’ve got to do a little more since we’re the more experienced side of the ball.”

Speaking of the WVU offense, Banks says he was impressed with the unit’s grit a week after being shut out 37-0 by Maryland.

I’m proud of those boys, real proud of them,” he said. “They didn’t let up. They got better as the week went on. That’s all that we need, just to see they were coming along. I’m proud of them.

“Last week, we knew we were better than that. We didn’t let it sink in and let it get to our morale. Tuesday we came out at practice and everybody had a certain energy about them. Everybody was like we knew that’s not us.”

Now, with the upset victory, Banks says the group can walk around with their heads held high.

“It’s going to give us a pep in our step, a little more swagger,” he said. “It’s going to show that we play hard and we can play with anybody. It did a lot for our confidence.”

Banks’ pick six was the first by the Mountaineers’ defense this season and marked the first since Pat Miller did so against USF in 2011.

It also marked a high point in the season for Banks, who had to battle during camp to earn a starting position.

“It just shows hard work pays off,” he said. “This is what I had in mind. I told myself I would be the starter coming out of camp. That’s exactly what happened.”

Tony Viola can be reached via email at