Marner: Evaluating Iowa State’s wild night

Iowa State’s interior defensive linemen are the foundational piece of the top defense in the Big 12.

Aaron Marner

Apparently Iowa State and Baylor took the Stone Cold Steve Austin theme song a little too literal before Saturday night’s game.

The Cyclones won, 28-14 and moved to 6-3 on the season (5-2 Big 12), but postgame, all attention was on a wild sequence in the third quarter.

Near the beginning of the third quarter, Iowa State junior running back David Montgomery sprinted to Iowa State’s sideline with Baylor defenders draped all over him. Baylor’s Chris Miller was flagged for a personal foul after he shoved Montgomery into Iowa State’s water coolers about 10 yards out of bounds.

Miller deserved the penalty he got, but it didn’t stop there. With emotions high, several players from each team escalated things in a scuffle on the sideline.

There’s nothing too crazy about a personal foul penalty and some exchanging of words. The problem is what came next. Two plays later, Montgomery rushed again for one yard. Hakeem Butler was involved in another scuffle opposite the play, and the teams converged again.

“It happened pretty quick,” Butler said.

Punches were thrown. Players were ejected, then reinstated, then more were ejected. It was pure chaos.

You’ll never believe this, but fans of both teams were adamantly defending their players. Baylor fans called for Butler and Montgomery to get tossed, while Cyclone fans fired back about the Bears.

With that said, here’s my rundown.

  • Chris Miller of Baylor absolutely deserved the 15-yard penalty he was assessed for the late hit on Montgomery. That was the play that started Saturday night’s fiasco.
  • Hakeem Butler and Baylor’s Blake Lynch (the player Butler was blocking in the tweet above) should have received penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • David Montgomery and Greg Roberts got thrown out, and that was the right call. Roberts reached over a referee to put his hands on Montgomery, which should be an automatic ejection. Montgomery shouldn’t have responded with a punch of his own. Things were already out of control, but they nearly got even worse after that.
  • Josh Knipfel’s reinstatement after being wrongly ejected was hilarious.
  • Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer was ejected later for apparently saying something to a referee after disagreeing with a call. It’s hard to pass judgment without knowing what was said, but Brewer was in a tough spot. Normally, an unsportsmanlike conduct call wouldn’t be enough to warrant an ejection, but everyone on both teams had been warned after the fight broke out. Brewer’s situation was unusual and just added even more to the ridiculousness of Saturday evening.

Knipfel’s return to the game also returned some normalcy to what had been an incredibly weird third quarter.

“I loved the standing ovation he got when he came back out,” Butler said. “It was like a wrestler coming to Royal Rumble.”

Coach Matt Campbell handled the situation well. After the game, he gave his appreciation for the officials for how they handled it. The team seemed to lose its cool on the sideline for a moment during the confusion, but Knipfel’s return brought some perspective.

“I was happy,” said senior linebacker Willie Harvey, laughing at Butler’s WWE reference. “I thought both David and Josh were coming back, but I’m glad Josh got to come back. He’s a big part of our offense.”

What almost got lost in the evening was Iowa State’s success on the field. The team didn’t play anywhere near a perfect game, but the Cyclones won by two touchdowns and became bowl-eligible.

The question for next week is Montgomery’s status. The Big 12 Conference will review the fight and the ejections to determine if anyone from either team deserves a suspension. My guess is as good as anyone else’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Montgomery suspended for the first half against Texas next Saturday.

A full game would be strong, since Montgomery missed nearly an entire half against Baylor. But not suspending Montgomery at all for throwing a punch (yes, even in retaliation) would set a precedent the Big 12 will certainly want to avoid.