Oct 13, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back David Montgomery (32) runs the ball against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — David Montgomery’s wide, knowing eyes met the question head on.
The star Iowa State tailback didn’t elude, collide with, or pummel it — as he did to West Virginia defenders all Saturday en route to a career-best 189 yards in his team’s dominant 30-14 win over the sixth-ranked Mountaineers at Jack Trice Stadium.
He simply blinked and answered — sort of.
Q: What did you think of the atmosphere tonight?
A: “Oh, I’m gonna watch film,” Montgomery said, momentarily misconstruing the question. “Then go home and play Fortnite.”
Just another night, in other words.Not to you — nor the national college football landscape.
But to him? Yes. Yes it was.
His 189 yards?
Q: Does that mean something to you?
A: “No, not really,” said Montgomery, who gashed the Mountaineers for more yards on the ground then they gained as a team (152). “We won. That’s what really matters. Rushing yards, I guess it’s cool and all, but that’s forgot about. But this win won’t be — and being able to have the memories with my brothers is even more amazing than 189 yards.”
Montgomery — who sat out last week’s 48-42 win at then-No. 25 Oklahoma State because of an arm injury — repeated the number dismissively.
His teammates wouldn’t, but not because of the gaudy triple digits now associated with his career high. It’s how he does it, less what he does.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said star receiver Hakeem Butler, who scored the Cyclones’ first touchdown on a four-yard pass from first-time starting quarterback Brock Purdy. “At this point, like, nobody really knows what to say. That dude’s incredible. The best player our team, the best player in the country.”
Tight end Charlie Kolar, who followed a Montgomery touchdown with a 19-yard score from Purdy, colorfully concurred.
“That dude’s a freak,” Kolar said. “I don’t know, God created him in a lab or something, but he’s one heck of a player. I mean, sometimes when you witness greatness like that, you take it for granted.”
Montgomery doesn’t. Because that’s who he is. But Saturday’s performance — combined with good O-line push and downfield blocking — helped form one of ISU’s most statistically dominant performances against a top-flight team in recent memory.
The Cyclones, who entered the game last in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game, racked up a season-high 244.
They ran the ball 47 times out of 72 plays — nearly two-thirds of the time — against a West Virginia defense that entered the game ranked second in the Big 12 allowing an average of 120.8 yards on the ground per game.
They were simply the better team on both sides of the ball, as their commanding advantages in total yards (498 to 152), time of possession (37:21 to 22:39), and yards per play (6.9 to 3.6) wholly demonstrated.
“Your defense is out there playing the whole time, your energy is eventually going to go away,” said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorson, whose team fell to 5-1, 3-1.
And not come back.
Still, the best may be yet to come for the Cyclones’ offense — even as the team improved to 5-2 in its last seven versus ranked teams after losing 20 straight such games from 2011-16.
ISU was whistled for several holding calls, a couple false starts and scored one touchdown after driving for three straight in the first half.
“I still think this offense is, in a lot of ways, in its infancy stages,” said ISU coach Matt Campbell, whose team (3-3, 2-2 Big 12) improved to 6-0 in October the past two seasons. “We’re growing. We’re trying to find an identity of who we are and what weapons we have at our disposal, but I think we have a lot better idea now at this point than maybe we did early in the football season. I think you’ll only see us continue to evolve, which is exciting for that group.”
Purdy rebounded from a telegraphed first-quarter interception that set up West Virginia’s only offensive score to complete 18 of 25 passes for 254 yards and touchdown passes to Butler, Kolar and slot receiver Deshaunte Jones.
Purdy also rushed for 43 yards on 11 carries, including a 15-yard keeper that helped spur ISU’s initial touchdown drive.
“He had to fight through a little adversity tonight and it was really great to watch that happen,” Campbell said. “I think, especially at that position, it’s never going to be perfect and it certainly wasn’t at times early in the game and then, boy, some of the plays he made, his ability to escape pressure … obviously that last touchdown throw to Deshaunte, really impressive. He’s got a lot of confidence in his receivers. He spreads the football around and I think you see him getting confident as the weeks go (by) and that’s exciting to see.”
The same could be said for the offense reluctantly headlined by Montgomery, who yawns when asked about himself, but loves talking up teammates such as Purdy, Jones, Butler, the offensive line — well, all of them, really.
“Quarterbacks throw interceptions. It’s part of the game. Just like running backs (lose) fumbles. It’s part of the game,” Montgomery said when asked about Purdy’s response to the early miscue. “It’s what you do next, it’s what you do after. When adversity strikes there’s two things you can do, there’s three things you can do. You can go forward, or go backwards, or you can do nothing. And the worst thing you can do is do nothing; to become a victim of it.”
Wise words, chosen carefully — just like the video clips he’d fixate on well into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Montgomery said he wouldn’t linger on highlights. Instead, he’d dig deep into his own (hidden to most) deficiencies.
“What I messed up,” Montgomery said of his late night film study. “Everything else is cool, I guess, but what I can get better on, improve on, because there’s always room for growth.”
As for Fortnite …
“Yeah,” Montgomery said. “I’ve just got to get better in Fortnite, too.”