Offense struggles early, takes flight in second half against Northern Iowa

Iowa State wide reciever Hakeem Butler catches a pass during the Cyclones’ first game of the season against UNI Sept. 2, 2017. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers 42-24.

Jack Macdonald

David Montgomery, the savior of the Iowa State offense.

The sophomore scampered into the end zone with a little over two minutes left in the first half to give Iowa State their first offensive score of the 2017 campaign en route to a 42-24 win.

There was only one problem, the fact that the Cyclones were already up 14-10 over Northern Iowa at that point.

It also took five drives to find the end zone. And at that point Colin Downing, the Iowa State punter, had more total yards punting than the Iowa State offense had in total yards.

“The thing that I was probably most impressed with is we didn’t panic throughout the football game,” said coach Matt Campbell. “Obviously, they go down first drive of the football game and they go score.”

Montgomery put the offense on his back and racked up 54 rushing yards in the first half alone, which was three more than Iowa State totaled in last year’s game against Northern Iowa.

Despite Montgomery’s success, the rest of the Cyclones’ offense struggled to produce any type of momentum until that touchdown with 2:27 left in the second quarter. Perhaps it was Montgomery’s juke-stick runs leading up to his three-yard touchdown run that sparked the Iowa State offense, but nonetheless, the offense came alive in the second half.

However, before the Iowa State offense was able to take flight in the second half, Downing was in line for a big thank you for his punting duties. Downing trotted onto the field for four consecutive punts in the first half, all of which were booted for over 40 yards, ultimately pinning the Panther’s offense deep in their own territory.

“Colin [Downing] is just such a great weapon for us,” Campbell said. “There’s another senior, a guy that has worked really hard to perfect his craft and I thought one of the most impressive punts he had was the one backed up in our end zone.”

The offense answered that thank you and let Downing take a breather in the second half, only punting one time, another 50-yard plus punt.

Part of that influx in points in the second half was in large part due to the depth that Iowa State possesses at the wide receiver position. However, it wasn’t Allen Lazard that took over the game, but rather the redshirt senior Trever Ryen, the former Northern Iowa track and field member. It was only fitting that Ryen had six catches for 55 yards.

“My [offensive line] really started it off,” Montgomery said. “It was slow. We just came back and did what we knew we could do. [Our] o-line is something special.”

Of course you can’t forget about Jacob Park, the man who once called himself a pirate. Park had a quiet first half despite going 11 for 15 with 103 passing yards. His first half was overshadowed by an interception he threw in the final drive of that half that luckily led to a missed field goal by Northern Iowa.

There was also the Iowa State offensive line that allowed zero sacks and only four tackles for loss, allowing Park to have an extended amount of time to look down the field for receivers.

Quite possibly the best instance of this was when Park found Lazard for a completion of 15 yards, which gave Lazard a career reception of 177 yards. That catch jumped him ahead of Todd Blythe’s record and put himself in the history books as Iowa State’s all-time career reception leader.

Iowa State exploded for 241 total yards of offense after a measly 164 in that first half to finish with 405 yards. Then, just when you thought the game couldn’t toss you another surprise, in came former quarterback, now starting linebacker, Joel Lanning for a snap on fourth-and-one. One more surprise, he converted that fourth down attempt.

One instate rival down, one more to go as Iowa State hosts Iowa next weekend.

“It’s our in state rival. We’re going to go out there, we’re going to prepare and especially after last year just the embarrassment that we left on the field at Kinnick Stadium,” Lazard said. “We just got to go out there with a chip on our shoulder and make sure we bring that trophy back to Ames.”