Behind David Montgomery's career day, Iowa State suffocates Will Grier and WVU
It was a tough day to be ranked in the Top 10.
Four teams that entered the day ranked among the elite in the latest coaching poll - No. 2 Georgia, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Penn State - suffered losses to divisional opponents. The carnage was even worse for bettors siding with the favorites. Top-ranked Alabama was the only team among the top 10 to cover Saturday and they did so by just a point, with the defending champions a four touchdown favorite and ultimately beating Missouri 39-10.
The most stunning upset occurred in Ames, where Iowa State's gritty, physical defense suffocated West Virginia senior quarterback Will Grier, limiting him to just 11 of 15 passes for a measly 100 yards and one touchdown - a fraction of the 363 yards and four scores NFLDraftScout.com's current fifth-rated senior QB was averaging per game entering this contest.
The Cyclones' strategy of bracketing Grier's favorite targets deep and forcing the senior quarterback to take underneath options clearly frustrated him. He often had time to survey the field but simply could not find open receivers, as the Mountaineers converted an abysmal 1 of 10 third down opportunities and were out-gained 498 to 154 overall by the Cyclones.
Likely adding to Grier's frustration was the fact that Iowa State's freshman Brock Purdy, on the other hand, was making things look easy. Purdy's production was almost as pretty in this upset victory (18 of 25 for 254 yards and three touchdowns) as he was last week (18 of 23 for 318 yards and four touchdowns) in a 48-42 win over then-25th ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Of course, throwing the ball is a lot easier when the defense has to account for the run. Whereas Grier was supported with just 52 rushing yards (at a 1.9 yard per rush clip) Saturday, the Cyclones raged for 244 yards with dependable junior running back David Montgomery stealing the spotlight as the game's top NFL prospect by bulldozing for a career-high 189 yards and a score.
As you can see below, Montgomery's quick spurt for a touchdown to end the first quarter was not a particularly flashy run. Many of Montgomery's runs are not flashy and neither is his estimated 4.63 40-yard dash time, which is why he currently checks low on NFLDraftScout.com's 2020 running back rankings.
What Montgomery lacks in straight-line speed, however, he more than makes up for with excellent vision to take full advantage of his blockers, strong lateral cuts to defenders off-balance and his own toughness when fighting through contact.
While not truly imposing at 5-foot-10, 216 pounds, Montgomery is a hard-nosed runner, delivering the blow to defenders with good forward lean and leg drive to go along with his trademark jump-cuts and alternating gaits that make him very difficult to stop. Montgomery's splashy performance earned a comparison to long since retired NFL standout Edgerrin James (6-0, 216, 4.38) by the game's announcers but I found his stubby frame, instincts, balance through contact (and lack of elite timed speed) more reminiscent of current NFL running backs Kareem Hunt (5-10, 216, 4.62) or Alfred Morris (5-10, 219, 4.61).
Check out this run a year more than a year ago against rival Iowa.
While Grier's disappointing day will likely generate most of the attention among the media moving forward, because of course, he is a quarterback, Montgomery's third consecutive 100-yard rushing performance deserves top billing. He was sidelined with an upper body injury a week ago for Iowa State's big win over Oklahoma State but was leaned on heavily in this contest by Cyclones' head coach Matt Campbell, earning a career-high 29 carries.
That kind of dependability (and no-nonsense running style) will certainly draw the interest of scouts, who are learning that this year's running back class does not stack up well against the remarkable talent at the position available in the past two drafts.