ISU 28, BAYLOR 14: Tension, brawl, ejections frame fifth-straight win

Nov 10, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell and Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule shake hands after their game at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Bears 28-14. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports 

AMES — Tensions simmered, then spiked.

 Late hits, a questionable finished block — and two big ejections (one mammoth from an Iowa State perspective) fueled the Baylor-ISU fracas, sending Cyclones players and coaches alike on a restless wave of conflicting emotions that started with anger and ended with deep breaths.

 “It’s football,” said ISU guard Josh Knipfel, who was initially ejected during the third-quarter incident, then returned to the field to uproarious applause. “Emotions get high at times and emotions get out of control sometimes.”

 Again, deep breaths. 

 The calm after the punch-filled storm that resulted in star ISU running back David Montgomery’s retaliation — then ejection — took hold for the Cyclones primarily because head coach Matt Campbell refused to let the confusion and turmoil cause his voice to waver, or eyes to flash with rage.

 But how did he really feel, though, after Baylor defensive lineman Greg Roberts punched Montgomery and continued to go after him before his All-American back eventually jabbed back?

 Again, deep breaths.

 “I don’t know, I probably had to refocus myself,” said Campbell, whose No. 22 team dispatched the ornery Bears 28-14 on a frigid, then fiery Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. “I don’t know if I did a great job, just because it was so chaotic. I will say this, though, about the officiating crew: I thought they did a great job of communicating with both coaches.”

 The situation started when Baylor defenders drove and tackled Montgomery deep into the Cyclone sideline, toppling an array of water coolers. 

 The result?

 Late hit penalty on Baylor.

 Bad blood rolled to a boil the next play when ISU receiver Hakeem Butler locked up with a defender and ended up on top of him, knees on shoulder pads — a dominant posture that drew the ire of several Bears, who began pushing and shoving as several Cyclones joined the fray. 

 It ended with the two ejections — but started the restudying process, which Campbell initiated in the usual manner: by stressing the importance of staying even-keel.

 In other words, deep breaths.

“He talked to us and just put us on the right path,” said Butler, who had three catches for 25 yards. “Told us to focus and just be ourselves and that’s what we did. We finished the game.”

 How much Montgomery plays in the next one at Texas is clouded in doubt.

 NCAA rules clearly stipulate a player penalized for fighting in the second half of a game should miss the first half the following game. But whether that ends up happening is up to the Big 12, which could review video of the incident and determine otherwise.

 Chances of that seem dim, however, as ESPN’s Big 12 reporter, Jake Trotter, asked the league for clarification.

 The Big 12 responded by quoting the NCAA rule:

 “If a player is disqualified for fighting in the second half they are disqualified for the remainder of the game and the first half of the next game, See Rule 9 Section 5 (FR 100 and FR 101),” read Trotter’s Tweet. 

 If Montgomery sits for the first half, it’s “next man up,” Butler said.

 ISU’s depth at running back is solid, and it showed Saturday with Johnnie Lang rushing for his first career touchdown and Sheldon Croney snared a 25-yard catch from quarterback Brock Purdy. 

 “Our best player, one of our best players everybody would arguably say, to see him out, I mean, it’s tough, but you’ve got to keep on pushing,” said Butler, who failed to catch a touchdown pass for the first time in ISU’s now five-game conference win streak. “Everybody trains, next man up mentality.”

 Officials on the field weren’t initially certain Montgomery should be flagged at all.

 That’s why Knipfel — who said he was trying to protect Montgomery — had been ejected. The change came from officials perched above the stadium, not the ones on it.

 “Certainly when you lose 32 (Montgomery), that’s definitely a situation where you’re confused, because what I saw was opposite of what their call down looked like,” Campbell said. “So it was confusing, but, again, that wasn’t the officials’ (on the field) call. That was from somebody upstairs.”

 Once it was changed, Knipfel strode in, as Montgomery jogged off.

 Another surreal scene unfolded, as fans rose to their feet for Knipfel. Teammates yelled and clapped vigorously for his return.

 “It was pretty cool, I guess,” Knipfel said. “But I was ready to just get onto the next play and stuff like that.”

 “Crazy,” is how Butler described the situation — and the game, which never was really in doubt despite the Bears piling up 505 yards of offense and a pair of second-half touchdowns.

 “Knipfel, I love the standing ovation he got when he came back on,” Butler said. “It was like a wrestler coming to Royal Rumble or something.”

 Or something.

 Again, deep breaths.

 The Cyclones (6-3, 5-2) have won five straight conference games in a single-season for the first time in school history.

 And whether Montgomery can play a full game next week against the Longhorns or not, the stakes remain as high as they ever were.

 Win and maintain hopes of possibly playing in a the Big 12 title game. Lose and regroup, refocus, and then try to win some more.

 “For Iowa State, it’s a big deal,” Knipfel said. “I don’t remember another time Iowa State’s been in a position to do this and we’re gonna go to an environment that’s gonna be pretty hostile. They’re a really good team. So it should be a fun game. It should be an exciting game and I think we’re already looking forward to getting prepared and going down there.”


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.