Montgomery and Butler leave lasting final impressions with NFL decisions looming

Junior running back David Montgomery talks with Washington state player following the conclusion of the Valero Alamo Bowl Dec. 29. The Cyclones were defeated 26 to 28.

Noah Rohlfing

SAN ANTONIO— If this indeed was the swan song at Iowa State for Hakeem Butler and David Montgomery (which likely has not been decided by either player yet), then the duo went out giving Cyclone fans a show — albeit in a losing effort — in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Friday night.

The Cyclones’ star duo handled a heavy load during the team’s 28-26 loss against the Washington State Cougars, with the two players combining to touch the ball 39 times for an eye-catching 371 total yards of offense. That number turned out to account for 72 percent of Iowa State’s total offensive yardage of 515.

Their nights were not without blemishes. David Montgomery lost a fumble in the fourth quarter, which led to a 10-yard touchdown run from Washington State running back Max Borghi to put the Cougars up 28-20. Butler dropped a couple of passes early in the game, and had what looked to be a route miscommunication with quarterback Brock Purdy on an early interception that led to the Cougars’ opening touchdown.

Campbell said he wasn’t fazed by Montgomery’s fumble.

“Mistakes happen in a football game,” Campbell said. “You just continue to let your great players make great plays.”

But it was how the two responded to the offense’s rocky start that buoyed the Cyclones’ comeback in the second half.

Butler — who had to respond to a report Friday afternoon that he had already declared for the NFL Draft — finished the night with nine receptions and an Alamo Bowl record of 192 receiving yards, averaging just over 20 yards per reception. One reception, a one-handed grab with a Cougars defender draped around him, sent Twitter into a frenzy.

Butler said the coaches helped him have his success by scheming him into good situations.

“I think the coaches had a good plan coming into the game,” Butler said. “With their corners, the way they played, and the safeties and things like that, we studied them a lot.

“We just saw some things that we liked and just attacked at will.”

Montgomery had 179 total yards, with 124 yards rushing and one touchdown on 26 carries and four receptions for 55 yards. His runs were littered with broken tackles and fights for more yardage.

Washington State linebacker Peyton Pelluer said it was difficult to handle Montgomery at times.

“[Montgomery’s] a tough back,” Pelluer said. “We knew we were gonna have to tackle well all game if we were gonna stop this offense.”

The two’s performances allowed the Cyclones to nearly overcome a season-high seven false starts. Ultimately, though, the Cyclones fell short at the end, and now is when the questions start to become louder: Will Butler and Montgomery return for a senior season, or go pro and start their NFL careers a year early?

When asked after the game, Butler said he wasn’t focusing on it.

“We just lost a game, so I mean, it’s kind of hard to even think about going anywhere,” Butler said. “I’m focused on what just happened right now.”

Following Friday night’s game, Cyclone fans will likely be hoping both return. But if they don’t, Iowa State’s offense could look massively different in 2019, and an offensive youth movement at the skill positions would be in full swing.

And what a bittersweet ending it would be for all involved.