AMES, Iowa — Iowa State appears to finally have the kind of potent offense it will need to compete in Big 12 play.
Sophomore running back David Montgomery is a big reason why.
Montgomery has emerged as a star for the Cyclones, rushing for 194 yards and three touchdowns in two games, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He also caught a career-high five passes for 53 yards in last weekend’s 44-41 overtime loss to Iowa. The performance included a memorable score in which he evaded and bowled over numerous defenders — including preseason All-American Josey Jewell — on a short touchdown run.
Montgomery and Iowa State (1-1) travel to face Akron (1-1) on Saturday in search of its third straight 40-point game, something the program hasn’t accomplished since 1976.
“I don’t know (what his ceiling is). The one thing I do know is that he’ll get to that point because of who he is and what his work ethic is,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “What you see from (Montgomery) through even in these first two games is the work ethic and the commitment to himself and his team.”
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Montgomery is also a prime example of an undervalued recruit thriving after being given an opportunity — and quickly emerging as a leader for a rebuilding program.
Montgomery was a bit tough to project coming out of high school in Cincinnati, where he rushed for 2,707 yards and 41 TDs as a dual-threat quarterback.
Montgomery chose Iowa State over Illinois, Indiana and Purdue and made the transition to running back, where he figured to have at least a year to bulk up while sitting behind starter Mike Warren. But as Warren battled through a high ankle sprain late in 2016, Montgomery became a starter and flourished.
Montgomery averaged 113.7 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry in Iowa State’s last three games last year, when the Cyclones went 2-1.
“David’s just a monster. We don’t think he’s human,” Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park said.
Warren, who led all freshmen nationally in rushing yards in 2015, is healthy again. But Montgomery has gotten the bulk of the carries so far this season, and he ranks third in the Big 12 in rushing yards and fourth in all-purpose yards.
“What he does in terms of the heartbeat for this program and this team, outside of those great runs, it’s nothing short of incredible for a young guy to be able to do that,” Campbell said.
Montgomery has already forced a couple dozen missed tackles this season — but his touchdown run against Iowa showed what he can do when defenses catch up to him.
After taking a pitch from Park, Montgomery dusted off a pair of would-be tackles before getting stood up by Jewell, one of the nation’s surest tacklers. Montgomery used his strength and leverage to get the ball across the goal line with Jewell’s hands still on his jersey.
Montgomery finished with 112 yards on 20 carries against Iowa, which figures to have one of the Big Ten’s best rush defenses.
“I just closed my eyes and kept running. That’s really all you can do,” Montgomery said. “I just kind of took advantage of it and just drove.”