THE RUTH-RYEN EXPRESS: Punt return for TD key in ISU victory

Oct 14, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Trever Ryen (19) returns a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Kansas Jayhawks at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Trever Ryen cradled the punt, partially fixed his gaze downfield and turned on his renowned track speed.

The fleet Iowa State receiver’s eventual destination: The end zone.

But a blurry, battering ram also known as De’Monte Ruth first caught the corner of his eye, then caused a sweet sound to fill his ears.

“(He’s) a crazy guy,” Ryen said of Ruth, whose crushing block sprang him for a 68-yard punt return for touchdown that helped set the stage for Saturday’s 45-0 dousing of Kansas. “He likes to hit people pretty hard. I just came around the corner and he gave me the hand, ‘Hey, follow me.’ Got around it and then I heard the crowd erupt and I knew he probably laid the guy out. I was just hoping, ‘Please God, no flag.’”

Ryen stood out in several ways on special teams on a soggy Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

The senior from Ida Grove recovered a muffed punt inside KU territory after the Cyclones’ initial possession. He also sped downfield to down two of ISU punter Colin Downing’s punts inside the Kansas five-yard line — one, at the four, another at the one.

“I’ve got some fast guys down there,” said Downing, who averaged 42.1 yards per boot, with four ending up inside KU’s 20. “It’s nice to have some speed on the edges. The coaches are always trying to take those guys off it, just to give them a break and I’m like, ‘No, no. Gotta leave them in.’ Our coverage team really showed today how good they are.”

NOTEBOOK: Offense struggled, yet shined in the red zone

ISU shined throughout the game on special teams, giving the offense average starting field position at its own 47-yard line.

Conditions made it difficult for both teams to move the ball offensively, so the spark from the third phase of the game proved crucial to the runaway win that push the Cyclones to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play.

Besides Ryen, Ruth and Downing, Jake Hummel and Jalen Martin applied massive pressure on a KU punt that ended up netting negative-two yards.

“Coach (Matt Campbell) told us special teams were going to be the game changer in this game,” said ‘Iron Man’ linebacker Joel Lanning, who tallied 10 tackles, including two for loss while playing in all three phases again. “The first punt, they muffed it and (Ryen) got on it. We handled the situations on special teams like we were supposed to. That really was what the game changer was.”

Ryen led the team with 93 all-purpose yards, all on punt returns and the fumble recovery. On a day where a slippery football led to less-than-perfect grip in the passing game, those yards — along with the touchdown and deftly-downed punts — played a pivotal role in the win.

“Trev’s a dawg,” said star running back David Montgomery, who averaged 3.2 yards per carry but scored three touchdowns, including the one that preceded Ryen’s Ruth-aided return. “He’s one of the fastest white persons I’ve ever seen in my life. Changed the whole shift of the game.”

Not without Ruth’s help, though. And Ryen took notice of that pad-popping assistance immediately, before completing his breathless sprint down the sideline.

“He told me that he loved me (and) he knew I had the block,” Ruth said. “He said he wasn’t even focused on running. He heard the crowd go, ‘Ooooh,’ and he was like, ‘Oh, he must have hit him hard.’”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.

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