Oct 14, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) runs away from the Kansas Jayhawks defense in the second quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — David Montgomery considers himself to be in a “drought.”
Perhaps it’s because the star sophomore Iowa State tailback was knocked out with an ankle injury late in the Baylor win and forced to the sidelines with a leg injury early in the regular-season-closing loss at Kansas State one week later.
But a “drought?”
Best to let the always-thoughtful Pro Football Focus first team All-American explain below. And here’s a hint: It’s mostly because of the Cyclone seniors he reveres and feels he let down by missing some action.
“Just leave those guys off right is the biggest thing here,” said Montgomery, who looks to go over 1,100 yards in the season in Saturday’s sold-out 11:30 a.m. Liberty Bowl matchup with No. 19 Memphis. “So I’m going to leave it all out on the field. I’m going to leave it all on the line for those guys because they deserve it.”
A healthy and prolific Montgomery will be key to 7-5 ISU’s hopes to slash through a 10-2 Tigers’ defense that allowed a robust average of 476.3 yards (120th in FBS) and 33.4 points per game (104th in FBS) in the regular season.
And keep this in mind: Montgomery pronounced himself “175% to 180 %” according to WHO-TV’s Michael Admire, today.
David Montgomery status update: he’s now 175%-180% because he ate waffles this morning. pic.twitter.com/slycA5OsOf
— Michael Admire (@Admire_OnAir) December 28, 2017
In case you’re scoring at home, that’s a marked increase from the lofty “150 percent” number he gave to reporters on Wednesday.
So consider the “drought” about to be doused.
“It’s always good to be around David Montgomery,” said the Cyclones’ record-setting senior receiver, Allen Lazard. “Whether it’s on or off the field. Having him back in practice was huge and he just brings such a positive good energy to practice and gets everybody going and focused. He’s just been such a huge (factor) in our success this year.”
Montgomery was merely at 100 percent once he started rekindling full speed in full gear during practice a couple weeks ago.
He’s also rushed for 105 or more yards in four of the past six games and will run behind a healthy offensive line rejuvenated by nearly a month removed from the wear-and-tear caused by each Saturday in the trenches.
“They don’t get enough honor,” Montgomery said of his front men. “They don’t get enough accolades or anything, so I think without those guys — I know without those guys — I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. (Quarterback) Kyle (Kempt) wouldn’t be able to do what he’s been able to do. So those guys are the foundation. Without those guys we’re nothing so I definitely appreciate those guys and just to see that those guys that have laid that on the line and been able to go a full season — the same guys, doing the same things every day and staying consistent — it shows a lot about this program. It shows how much pride they take in playing the positions that they play.”
Same goes for Montgomery. Hence the “drought” talk amid a truly remarkable season that may just be kicking into high gear again soon with would-be tacklers left in his wake.
“It’s great to have David back,” ISU offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “It’s great to have David back feeling good because I love David and I want him to feel really good. I think he’s a guy that is certainly a heartbeat of our football program — and not the only guy, but I think he’s a guy that certainly has a tremendous effect on our players because of the way that he works, the way that he cares about his teammates, the way that he cares about this coaches. He’s a phenomenal guy to have back and ready to roll and certainly from the football side of it, we all believe David has the ability to make plays and he’s proven that, so certainly it is all positive to have him back.”
RILEY … MAYFIELD?
ISU’s coaches have rightfully heaped high praise on Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, who ranks fifth nationally in passing yards per game at 330.9 per game. Who’s just above him in fourth? Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
“I’ve been asked a couple times this week, ‘Who does Riley Ferguson remind you of?’” Cyclones defensive coordinator Jon Heacock said.
His answer: “Baker Mayfield.”
“He’s really sharp,” Heacock explained. “He’s been in the system. He understands the strengths of it. He knows what he’s trying to do. I think he knows what his team, his coaches, are trying to do. I think that’s very obvious to me on film, so I think he has great leadership standards. What he does out there, he keeps plays alive. He doesn’t seem to give them very many bad plays — they don’t have many bad plays on film, which isn’t a lot of fun to watch, but it’s real. They do a tremendous job and I think he’s the reason that they go. He’s the quarterback. He’s sharp. He doesn’t make errors. He keeps the ball alive. He gets them into the right plays, it seems like, all the time and it makes him very dangerous.”
PEAVY PRIMED FOR A CHALLENGE
Memphis ranks in the top eight nationally in four key offensive statistics, most notably, scoring average (47.7 points per game, second in FBS).
That’s daunting — until one considers that ISU split with teams ranked Nos. 3 and 4, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
OK, it’s still daunting on paper, but the Cyclones’s junior first team All-Big 12 cornerback Brian Peavy welcomes another high-octane test.
“We’ll definitely need a team effort to get the job done, but we believe that defense wins championships, so if they don’t score, we win,” Peavy said. “That’s how the defense looks at it.”