Nov 18, 2017; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Joel Lanning (7) rushes with the ball against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — They opened holes and carved out creases.
Iowa State’s offensive line played its best game in Saturday’s 23-13 win at Baylor — and an even better effort is likely needed this weekend at Kansas State.
“That group’s really started to come together and jell at a really important time for us to be able to be successful,” said Cyclones coach Matt Campbell, whose team (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) seeks to end a nine-game skid against the Wildcats. “It’s fun that this is actually the first time that we’ll have guys coming back. It’s nice to have. And you’re talking about (Bryce) Meeker and (Sean) Foster and obviously Julian (Good-Jones), (Josh) Knipfel — all four of those guys, we think, can be really, really talented, really good football players and that’s not even touching any of those young freshmen that we’ve been able to redshirt, which has been great for us.”
So the future and the present are both bright — even, apparently, for Meeker, who could return to the field in Manhattan after missing three games with a knee injury.
“Bryce was kind of back in more of an emergency role probably would be the best way to say it last week,” Campbell said. “He dressed out for the game. Came with us down to Waco and we’ll kind of see where he’s at progress-wise, to see if he’s ready to truly, fully be back in it this week, but Bryce has done a great job, has worked really hard to get himself back and we’ll need him.”
K-State boasts a stout rushing defense. The Wildcats allow just 122.4 yards per game and will aim to end ISU star sophomore back David Montgomery’s three-game streak of 100 or more rushing yards.
“Very strong up front,” said Montgomery, who’s topped 100 yards rushing all but once since the Oct. 14 win over Kansas. “Very good on the back end of their defense. We’ve just got to play our game and see how things pan out.”
Montgomery said the line’s done a good job of allowing him some room to roam all season. It’s been better lately, which could lead to a big game to close out the regular season.
“I’ve always had space,” Montgomery said. “Those guys, they bring the same energy and effort every play. Sometimes it just doesn’t hit. I think sometimes we forget that it’s not always going to be there, but when it’s there I have to take it. So a lot of mistakes that happened (during) the season, like me not being a consistent runner, it’s been a lot on me. My O-line has always been good.”
BIG AL BLOCKS
It didn’t take Allen Lazard long to become an elite blocker. As he chased and established new program records in receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard games, and more, his development in more toughness-based areas shined, as well.
And now the standout senior’s got company.
“There’s something that Allen, we talked a little bit about that this weekend as a staff, he’s left a legacy that not many of your premier players at the wide receiver position are going to be your best blockers and I think that’s what Allen’s brought to the table,” Campbell said. “You really look at his whole body of work and his ability to block and physically overpower people — and, I think, now you’ve got a young guy like Hakeem Butler coming up and he sees him doing it. And Hakeem is the same style of blocker. And I think Marchie (Murdock) has done a great job of it. Matt Eaton does a good job of it. Those are trickle-down effects from the lead dog and when Allen is that guy and takes great ownership in it, I think everybody else has bought into that. But it’s certainly a huge asset, because you have those big bodies out there blocking. Now those screen plays and some of those things that you need to work and be able to facilitate, they can work because those guys do a great job.”
It starts at quarterback. The Wildcats are on their third of the season, as Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton are both hurt. Ertz, a Mediapolis native, will undergo knee surgery. That means redshirt freshman Skylar Thompson will start against the Cyclones — and Campbell said he’s provided a spark for the team.
“Now all of a sudden, here comes this redshirt freshman,” Campbell said. “And you see him play and he’s got some moxie and confidence about himself.”
Campbell loves Thanksgiving turkey. Lazard? Not so much.
“I just like my traditional ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn,” Lazard said. “Just keep it very plain and very simple. After that I’ve got to get the desserts for sure.”
Back to turkey. Montgomery’s a fan of the Thanksgiving bird, as well.
“I like fried turkey with some hot sauce on it,” ISU’s 1,000-yard rusher said.
BACK TO FOOTBALL …
Linebacker Joel Lanning on Kansas State, which is a 2.5-point favorite Saturday:
“Those guys will never quit,” the Cyclones’ Paul Hornung Award finalist said. “So it’s going to be a tough one.”