NOTEBOOK: One big second-half drive, O-line shake up and special teams shifts

Hakeem Butler makes a catch after slipping during Saturday’s 27-24 win over Drake at Jack Trice Stadium (photo courtesy Iowa State Athletics Communications).

AMES —  A look at Iowa State’s second half drive chart Saturday against Drake should draw the same reaction as the game in general. 

 Yuck, but with one big positive both on the macro and micro level.

 A, the Cyclones won, 27-24, to post their eighth regular season win in the modern era for just the second time in program history — and first in 18 years.

 B, the one drive that stood out essentially won the game.

 After ISU (8-4) went interception, punt — and before it went punt, punt, victory formation — the offense shined on the one possession that turned out to matter the most.

 Down 24-20, the Cyclones took over at their own 33-yard line.

 David Montgomery broke free for a seven-yard gain. Twin 15-yard catches by Matt Eaton and Deshaunte Jones followed and tempo ensued.

 Quarterback Brock Purdy hit Jones for another six-yard gain and Montgomery — a 1,00 yard rusher for the second straight season — added runs of five, six and one-yard to push ISU inside the 10.

 Two plays later, Purdy hit Jones for a 7-yard score with 33 second remaining in the third quarter that, with the defense’s help, sealed a much too-close-for-comfort win.

 “The fabric of us is it’s ‘we’ before ‘me,’ Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said. “So I just got done telling our kids there’s probably maybe some kids that are disappointed, but not too disappointed they’re on an 8-4 football team with a chance to go get their ninth win. So a great learning experience even for some of those young guys.”

 Montgomery eclipsed 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons to become the first Cyclone back to do so since the late Ennis Haywood (2000-01) despite battling the after-effects of the flu, Campbell said.

 Montgomery carried 33 times for 147 yards — more than half of ISU’s total yardage output (273).

 “What he’s done, really at a time — when you look at some of the yardage and how he’s gotten his yardage over the past few years? Whoa,” Campbell said. “It’s been tough yards, right? It’s not been an easy road. It’s not been a veteran offensive line that’s paved the way. This guy has done so much of that yardage by himself and with the help this year of tight ends and certainly an evolving offensive line. But he’s really special. He’s a guy that when you need him the most, David’s been there, and certainly was there for this football team today when we needed him the most.”


 Campbell said after the game that it’s uncertain if banged-up right tackle Bryce Meeker’s injury sustained in the first quarter will be a lengthy one.

 What he does know is he’ll get extended game film on backup Sean Foster for the first time since the season-opening loss at Iowa.

 “It was great for Sean to get some really good reps,” Campbell said. “Bryce, gosh, he’s had a great year. I don’t know if anybody has grown, maybe in our program, especially in the spot that Bryce has, as much as Bryce Meeker. You talk about strength. And we talked about this in the spring time a year ago, where Bryce was a guy that had a phenomenal winter Put together a great spring. Put together a great fall camp and all of a sudden put together a stretch of really good football. So I think that was a huge loss losing him, but I’ll also say this: Sean Foster got to go into the football game and it’s gonna be really fun to watch that video and see where did he grow from week one to where he ended up playing today, which is, gosh, I don’t know what week it is. It seems like week 30.”


Hakeem Butler — who broke the all-time single-season record for receiving yards in Saturday’s win — was asked, hypothetically, what his pitch to prospective bowl reps would be.

His answer?

 “They can just look at us,” Butler said. “Look at our repertoire, look who we’ve beat and who we’ve played. Just see what we’ve done. Even our losses have been competitive. We’ve been in every game and we’re gonna fight and our fans are gonna show up. I know that for sure.”


 Playing more younger players at some key positions in Saturday’s game obviously didn’t pan out, but a couple newcomers took the field at kicker and punter.

 Peyton Paddock, a redshirt junior kicker from Monticello, handled kickoffs on an extra windy day and backup punter (and starting holder) Joe Rivera came in to punt after a muffed attempt from starter Corey Dunn led to Drake’s first touchdown.

 “I think the biggest thing is catching the ball,” Campbell said when asked about subbing in Rivera, who averaged 38 yards on two punts. “Joe’s a really good athlete. He’s our holder. Joe’s a guy that we have a lot of trust in. … I thought it was critical for us, priority No. 1 on days like this, catch the football. Priority No. 2, obviously, is protection. But Joe did a great job. I think what Joe Rivera did for the team today — how about Peyton Paddock today? I thought Peyton was outstanding. I thought those guys really kind of came in and guys that we knew, because of the weather situation, were (important) guys.”


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.