Nov 18, 2017; Waco, TX, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) rushes for a gain against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports
David Montgomery bounced off, bulldozed and battered Baylor again and again.
No matter the number of would-be Bears tacklers, Iowa State’s super sophomore tailback shed, evaded or bowled over them with regularity, playing a key role in helping the Cyclones escape Waco Saturday with a grinding 23-13 Big 12 win at McLane Stadium.
But as good as the scoreboard looked for ISU (7-4, 5-3), which ensured its first winning season since 2009, Montgomery finally absorbed a hit with 4:43 left he couldn’t immediately snap back from.
Montgomery was down on the field for several moments, as his teammates knelt in solidarity and prayer. Montgomery was then helped off the field and, finally, carted off for further examination.
Uh oh? Definitely — but fortunately not as bad as it looked, given how Montgomery’s ankle bent under the weight of defenders.
Cyclones coach Matt Campbell told an FSN reporter after the game that “X-rays came back clear,” and that Montgomery should be fine in the long term.
Whew? Hell, yes.
“I think we’re really lucky,” Campbell told Eric Heft during the Cyclone Radio Network’s postgame show. “Obviously the X-rays were all positive in terms of no major injuries. So David, we’ll get him healthy and get him ready to rock and roll.”
Montgomery — who powered for 144 yards on 27 carries — became ISU’s 14th-ever back to gain 1,000 or more yards on the ground in a season.
He could gain many more in 2017, but that obviously depends on how well he heals in the ensuing days and weeks.
“If I know David, don’t count him out, so I think he’ll be ready to rock and roll here soon,” Campbelll added.
The Cyclones matched a program record for conference wins (five) previously set in 2000 and 1977 — and one more regular-season opportunity presents itself next weekend at dangerous Kansas State.
“I told our kids, ‘Would you want it any other way?'” Campbell said. “‘Your last four quarters of guaranteed football right now, as this regular season ends and you’ve got to go against a team that their history, their success has been because they do the little things better than anybody.’ It’s a great honor to go there and play and I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
The Cyclones improved to 7-0 this season when collecting more turnovers than their opponent. Brian Peavy’s strong-armed strip and fumble recovery inside the ISU five-yard line ended a possible game-tying Baylor drive early in the fourth quarter and Reggie Wilkerson picked off a Charlie Brewer pass to thwart another Bears drive midway through the final frame.
“It was a battle,”Campbell said.
ISU struggled early, falling behind 7-0 before Zeb Noland connected with record-breaking receiver Allen Lazard for a 36-yard touchdown to tie it.
Baylor inched ahead again with a field goal, which Cyclone kicker Garrett Owens matched from 34 yards out to tie the game at 10-all with 8:05 left in the first half.
ISU then took a lead it would not relinquish less than six minutes later when Noland hit Hakeem Butler on a scintillating 67-yard touchdown throw, catch and run.
“People see me as skinny, but I would say I’m one of the stronger people,” Butler said. “You never know when the ball’s coming back to you so I just said I’ve got to get in and do this for the team.”
Neither team scored a second-half touchdown, but Owens helped seal the win — along with the fourth quarter takeaways from Peavy and Wilkerson — by drilling a 45-yard field goal into a stiff wind with 7:01 left.
“I thought there were two plays that really stuck out,” Campbell said. “I thought Hakeem’s plat at the end of the first half and Brian’s play down there on the three-yard line, I think that epitomizes this team. We’re back against the wall. Everybody’s waiting for it to fall the other way and you just play another play and you stand up and you make that play that’s you gotta make. That’s what our kids did today and that was awesome to see.”
ISU outgained the Bears 394 yards to 331 and rushed for a season-high 214 yards. Sheldon Croney added 47 yards on the ground and linebacker/quarterback Joel Lanning sprinkled in 27 rushing yards as the Cyclones wore down Baylor in the final quarter.
“We were able to play Cyclone football in the second half,” Campbell said.
Noland completed 14 of 28 passes for 180 yards and the two touchdowns in his first career start.
Lazard became the program’s all-time leader in receiving yards, passing Todd Blythe’s previous benchmark of 3,096. Lazard now stands at 3,123.
“What Allen’s really meant to this team — we’ve played four different quarterbacks and this offense has gone through a lot,” Campbell said. “But the steadying force has been him and I think he’s allowed the rest of these guys to grow and between him and David, they’ve anchored an offense that easily coud have went the other way really fast just because of what happened. But they haven’t. They’ve steadied the course.”