SAN ANTONIO — Iowa State had every opportunity to pack it in and settle for a low-tier bowl game — or no bowl game at all — after a 1-3 start to the season and losing starting quarterback Kyle Kempt.
But Coach Matt Campbell’s group remained resilient.
The No. 24 Cyclones (8-5) came up short against No. 13 Washington State, 28-26, Friday night in the Alamo Bowl, but Coach Matt Campbell said the “ability to turn the tide, it’s gutsy.
“I think if you look at the teams that started the football season 1-3 around the country and the teams that had the ability to recover like this group did, it’s really powerful. And I think this group has got a really powerful story. Obviously we came up short tonight, and that’s unfortunate, but I think those shortcomings will only guide us going forward.
“What this senior class, what this team did this year, really powerful because I think a lot of people wrote us off at 1-3 — and probably should have,” he said. “But the reality of it is, in our walls our kids kept believing, and I think that’s more powerful than anything else going on. And to be honest with you, I think it’s why these kids can leave — wherever they’re going tonight and tomorrow — they can hold their heads really high because what they’ve done and what they’ve stood for in changing a culture, and it continues to change in a really positive direction, and for that I’m really proud of this group.”
Three NFL scouts were in the press box for the Alamo Bowl — from the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins.
All three were enamored with Iowa State running back David Montgomery and receiver Hakeem Butler, both of whom are juniors.
When Butler made a ridiculous one-handed catch, one of the scouts exclaimed, “Now that’s an NFL catch.”
At another point, when Iowa State was faced with a third-and-long, a scout said, “Just throw it near No. 18 (Butler) and good things will happen.” Iowa State did just that and got a big gain out of it and he said, “See?”
Whenever Montgomery touched the ball, he elicited “oohs” and “aahhs” from the scouts. On one run near in the red zone, Montgomery broke a series of tackles that left one scout repeadetly saying, “Wow, wow, wow.”
Montgomery finished with 124 yards and one touchdown on 26 rushes. He also had four receptions for 55 yards. Butler had nine receptions for 192 yards.
Montgomery and Butler have decisions to make about entering the NFL Draft or returning to school. Butler was asked about it on Friday after the game and didn’t want anything to do with the question.
“We just lost a game, so it’s kind of hard to even think about going anywhere,” Butler said. “I’m just focused on what just happened right now.”
Fans make presence known
Iowa State fans took over the River Walk in San Antonio in the days leading up to the Alamo Bowl.
On gameday, the Cyclones decidedly outnumbered the Washington State fans. The announced attendance for the game was 60,675 — the largest crowd since the 2005 game between Nebraska and Michigan.
The majority of that 60,675 were Iowa State fans.
“I think I should say another great thank you is to our fan base,” Campbell said. “You see the energy and the excitement that they have been so loyal to us, not only through the good times but through some of the tough times, and what an honor to be able to put them on this stage and to be able to be in this environment. They were incredible tonight and we’re beyond thankful to them and their support for us.”
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