AMES, Iowa — Matt Campbell walked briskly into his weekly news conference and quickly squelched any uncertainty over running back David Montgomery’s health.
“He’ll be ready to roll,” the Iowa State coach said Monday.
Montgomery backed that up.
“I feel great, actually,” he said.
That’s good news for the Cyclones, who will try for a rare eighth victory in their regular-season finale at Kansas State on Saturday. Iowa State (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) has lost nine straight to the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4) and has not won at Kansas State since 2004.
So yes, the Cyclones need as many healthy bodies as possible against a team that is coming off a 45-40 upset of Oklahoma State and has won three of its last four.
“I’m glad we have a healthy team going into Saturday,” wide receiver Allen Lazard said. “Having David back is obviously very good, him being one of the best if not the best backs in the country. You don’t mind having that in the backfield when you can give him the ball and you never know what’s going to happen next.”
Montgomery tweaked his left ankle in a 23-13 victory over Baylor last Saturday when he was bent over backward while being tackled. The injury appeared serious because the sophomore remained stretched out on the field for several minutes, then put no weight on his left leg as he was helped off the field.
But X-rays found no damage and he walked without a limp on Monday.
“It happened so fast,” he said. “I never felt that pain before. My initial reaction was to calm down. When I got to that point, I knew everything was all right and I had to get up from there.”
Montgomery has rushed for 1,080 yards and is second in the Big 12 with an average of 98.2 yards a game. He has averaged 120.4 yards over the last five games and has forced 101 missed tackles this season, a national record since Pro Football Focus began tracking that figure in 2014.
And like many good backs, Montgomery gets more productive as the game progresses. Last week, Montgomery managed only 39 yards in 11 first-half carries. In the second half, he carried 16 times for 105 yards.
“Defenses make adjustments and what you see on film isn’t always what you’re going to get early in the football game,” Campbell said. “I think you as an offense and you as the ball carrier have to make the adjustments with the flow of the game. That’s one of the things I really like about David and where I’ve seen him really grow in his time at tailback.
“You have to remember he was a high school quarterback that maybe didn’t have to make those same adjustments that you’re now having to make at this level at the tailback position.”
Sheldon Croney, also a sophomore, filled in after Montgomery went down and rambled for 45 yards on his four carries to help the Cyclones secure the victory. He would be next up again if Montgomery is limited at Kansas State.
“It’s a blessing in my eyes really to see Sheldon actually be able to do what he’s doing,” Montgomery said.
Iowa State already has matched a school record with its five conference victories. Only five Iowa State teams in the last 110 years have won as many as eight games.
“It would be huge,” Lazard said, “especially (because) the past three seasons we haven’t had the kind of success we wanted. To finish off the regular season like that and go into the bowl season with a win would be huge.”