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Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler declares for NFL draft

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It was a one-two offensive punch to the gut for Iowa State Monday.

Late this morning, David Montgomery, who has led the Cyclones in rushing the past three seasons, announced in a statement posted on Twitter that he has decided to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility in order to declare for the April draft.  Nearly 10 hours later, teammate and leading receiver Hakeem Butler used the same social media vehicle to deliver the same message.

Butler led the Cyclones with 60 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns while also setting the single-season school record in receiving yards with 1,318. His 101.4 yards per game were third in the Big 12 and ninth nationally.

In ISU’s Alamo Bowl loss to Washington State that turned out to be the final game of his collegiate career, the 6-6. 219-pound Butler set career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (192).

No. 13 Washington State secures program-record 11th win by holding off No. 24 Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl

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If you’re going to remember the Alamo, might as well remember the mustache too.

Gardner Minshew II closed out his storybook season with No. 13 Washington State, delivering a program-record 11th victory for the Cougars as they managed to hold off pesky No. 24 Iowa State 28-26 in yet another thrilling Alamo Bowl deep in the heart of Texas.

The energetic quarterback put his team on his back once again and wound up throwing for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding another score on the ground for good measure (he also led the team in rushing in the game with 16 yards). Minshew continued to leave his mark in the history books too, setting the Pac-12 single-season record for passing yards (passing some guy named Jared Goff) and set school records for yardage and total completions as well.

As has been the case quite a bit this year, Minshew spread the ball around plenty. Nine different players caught a pass and seven had at least 20 yards through the air on the night. Tailback Max Borghi was particularly elusive, catching six passes while also rushing for 13 yards and a touchdown. The Cougs defense also stepped up with a big time performance in recording three sacks and picking off a pair of passes — one of which should have been a pick-six that was negated by a taunting penalty.

Despite the all-around effort from the visitors from the Palouse, ISU did not go quietly into the night after a rough first half was marked by several starters being ejected due to targeting and saw such frustration that typically mild-mannered head coach Matt Campbell took an unsportsmanlike penalty. QB Brock Purdy also tossed a pair of interceptions early but the freshman help lead yet another late rally in throwing for 315 yards and rushing for two more scores.

Helping the cause for the Cyclones were naturally two of their best players. Running back David Montgomery was hard to tackle on every snap and rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown while hauling in four passes for 55 yards as well. Wideout Hakeem Butler was a beast as well, racking up 192 yards on nine catches and dominating the much smaller secondary of the Cougs.

It just wasn’t enough in the end though as Wazzu capped off a truly remarkable season under Mike Leach this year. Not only did they set a new record for most wins in program history, but they also won their first bowl game since 2015 and delivered the Pac-12’s first postseason victory in over a calendar year too.

There were not a lot of bright spots out West on the gridiron in 2018 but Minshew’s mustache and the play of his Cougars certainly qualify after capping things off with the ‘W’ in the Alamo Bowl.

No. 13 Washington State using defense, Gardner Minshew to hold halftime lead in the Alamo Bowl over No. 24 Iowa State

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The Alamo Bowl has near-annually given us some terrific games and this year’s edition looks like it will be no exception as No. 13 Washington State took a 21-10 lead into the locker room at halftime over No. 24 Iowa State in an entertaining (if low-scoring) affair down by the Riverwalk.

In what might be a slight surprise to those who haven’t watched them much this year, the Cougars were able to hold the lead thanks in large part because of their defense. They recorded two sacks in the first half and forced a pair of turnovers, including a (near) pick-six by corner Marcus Strong that was brought back 15 yards after he held the ball out before crossing the goal line to draw a taunting penalty.

Even with that mistake, the offense still punched the ball into the end zone and Strong got a huge shoutout on social media from one of the best to ever play the position too.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew II was on point with 166 yards and two touchdowns passing and one rushing. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year also managed to set school record for passing yards and completions in the first half too as he sliced up one of the Big 12’s best defenses.

His opposite number did not quite rise to the same level as Brock Purdy looked like a true freshman in throwing a pair of interceptions early on. The young signal-caller did bounce back to throw for 144 yards and run a touchdown in but the Cyclones going to need a lot better play out of him, especially with David Montgomery being bottled up to the tune of 40 yards. Top wideout Hakeem Butler was basically the entire passing game too with 124 yards before the break.

We’ve seen some really fun finishes in the Alamo Bowl over the years and given that this one involves Mike Leach and an ISU squad that loves to mount comebacks, something says we could be in for a real doozy of a second half down in San Antonio.

No. 15 Texas wins de facto Big 12 semifinal over No. 16 Iowa State, loses Sam Ehlinger

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There were three major developments in Saturday night’s game between No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State and the Big 12 title race as a whole, and two of them happened before the game even started.

The first happened last week, when Iowa State running back David Montgomery was ejected from the Cyclones’ win over Baylor for fighting, which triggered an automatic suspension for the first half of Saturday night’s game.

The second occurred an hour before the game started and 450 miles north of Austin, when Oklahoma State upset No. 9 West Virginia. That stunner turned Saturday night’s game into a de facto Big 12 semifinal where, regardless of the outcome of West Virginia’s game with No. 6 Oklahoma Friday night in Morgantown, the winner between Iowa State and Texas would control their own destiny to reach the Big 12 title game.

The second major development came on the final play from scrimmage of the first half. Scrambling toward the Iowa State end zone, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger put his head down in an attempt to power toward the first down marker. He was stopped short and, worse, took a shot to the same right, throwing shoulder that knocked him out of UT’s win over Baylor on Oct. 13. Ehlinger remained in uniform and threw warm-up passes on the sideline but did not return.

While that was obviously bad news for Texas (8-3, 6-2 Big 12), the good news is that the Longhorns dominated the game with and without its star quarterback. Ehlinger’s scramble helped put the Longhorns up 17-3, and a 27-yard touchdown pass from backup Shane Buechele to Lil'Jordan Humphrey with 36 seconds left in the third quarter put the game on ice as Texas cruised to an easier-than-expected 24-10 win.

Before the Ehlinger injury, the sophomore quarterback was once again excellent. Texas jumped out to an early lead, rolling 80 yards in nine plays and scoring on a 7-yard Ehlinger run.

The Cyclones (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) answered with a field goal but, after a pair of punts, the Longhorns moved 94 yards in 10 plays to push the lead to 11, scoring on a 19-yard swing pass from Ehlinger to running back Keaontay Ingram to put Texas up 14-3 with 9:53 left in the first half. He finished the game 12-of-15 for 137 yards and a touchdown with 32 rushing yards and another score, continuing his Big 12 record streak of consecutive passes without an interception.

The absence of Montgomery and the early deficit put the game in Brock Purdy‘s hands, and for the first time in his young career the Iowa State freshman looked like a freshman. He was 10-of-23 passing for 130 yards with an interception and was sacked five times before leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to injury. Hakeem Butler posted six grabs for 99 yards, but no other Iowa State wideout posted more than 14 receiving yards. By the time Montgomery entered the game, the Cyclones trailed by 14 and had failed to establish any sort of a rhythm. He finished 10 carries for 33 yards and a garbage-time touchdown with 1:33 remaining and Iowa State trailing by 21.

With Ehlinger’s status unknown moving forward, the Texas offense still clicked on all cylinders. Tre Watson carried 13 times for 84 yards, including a 39-yard run that was the longest among any Longhorn this season, and Buechele completed all 10 of his passes for 89 yards and a score. Humphrey caught seven passes for 86 yards and the score, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.

Ehlinger did not miss any time after suffering the Grade 1 AC sprain that knocked him out of the Baylor game, but Texas was off the following week. The Longhorns play Friday at Kansas and the stakes are the same regardless of who plays quarterback — a win puts them back in the Big 12 Championship.

No. 5 Oklahoma holds off Iowa State in Big 12 opener

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No. 5 Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) was finally given a stiff test after two easy wins to start the year, but Iowa State (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) was unable to pull a second straight upset over the Sooners. Kyler Murray passed for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 77 yards to help Oklahoma stay ahead of the Cyclones, 37-27, in the Big 12 opener for both schools.

Iowa State cut Oklahoma’s lead to 34-27 with a field goal at the end of an 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Murray then got to work on leading an important drive for Oklahoma, beginning with a 15-yard run and running for 15 yards once again two plays later. Although the drive did not end with a touchdown, a 42-yard field goal was essentially the final nail in the coffin for Iowa State’s upset bid on this day. Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland had a pass picked off on the ensuing drive, which allowed Oklahoma to run out the bulk of the remaining 1:11 in the game.

Noland completed 25 of 36 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns, and Hakeem Butler was a breakout star for the Cyclones with five catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. But it was not enough to overcome Murray’s performance. Sooners receiver Marquise Brown caught nine passes for 191 yards and a touchdown as well.

Playing their first game without standout running back Rodney Anderson, who suffered a season-ending injury last week, the Sooners found the production they needed with Murray and running backs Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton. The two running backs charged the offense on their second possession of the third quarter with Sutton hurdling a defender for some extra yardage and Sermon breaking loose from some poor tackling by Iowa State’s defense for a touchdown. Sutton had left the game at one point with what looked like it might be a serious leg injury, but he returned to the game later despite needing assistance off the field.

Oklahoma returns home next week for one last non-conference game on their schedule. The Sooners host Army in what will be the first meeting with the service academy since 1961. Oklahoma returns to Big 12 play the following weekend at home against Baylor.

Iowa State also jumps back to non-conference play next week with a home game against Akron. It is the second game of a home-and-home series that started last year with Iowa State winning 41-14 at Akron.