AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State finally broke into the win column in 2018, relying on defense and its kicker to carry an underwhelming and, at times, uninspired offense.
Connor Assalley added four field goals for the Cyclones (1-2), but all of those kicks came inside the red zone ahead of a brutal stretch in the Big 12. Iowa State plays at No. 17 TCU next week, at Oklahoma State on Oct. 6 and hosts No. 12 West Virginia on Oct. 13.
"We won because we stayed the course and ran the football and stopped the run. Those things really allowed us to mitigate some of those mistakes," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "I know it wasn't perfect."
No, it wasn't. But it was good enough to get a win in a game the Cyclones couldn't afford to lose.
Iowa State broke a 10-10 tie on a 1-yard TD run by Montgomery just before halftime. Assalley added field goals of 29 and 33 yards, and the Cyclones stopped Akron on downs with 2:07 left.
"I think we've just got to keep sustaining drives, keep the defense off the field. It's great we're kicking field goals and getting three points. But we've got to score touchdowns," Noland said.
Kato Nelson had 153 yards passing and a touchdown and a pick for the Zips (2-1). They gained just 244 yards and didn't reach the red zone.
"I told my boys (not to) hang their heads. We've played with the big boys," said Akron coach Terry Bowden.
Iowa State: The Cyclones offense struggled to turn yards into touchdowns -- and it's starting to become fair to wonder if not having a designated offensive coordinator is hurting them. Iowa State's defense kept Akron out of the end zone after an early score following a fumble. It didn't end up costing them against the Zips, but TCU will roll the Cyclones if they play like this next week in Fort Worth.
Akron: The Zips might not be half bad in 2018. After rallying to stun Northwestern last week, Akron made Iowa State work for everything it earned. Akron also deserved some of the credit for forcing Iowa State into all those short field goals.
A CYCLONE SPARK
Iowa State got off to a sleepy start, falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter after losing a fumble deep in its own territory. But Kene Nwangwu ripped off a 47-yard kickoff return, Montgomery kept his balance after a pass rusher nearly brought him down in the backfield and Noland found Hakeem Butler for a 24-yard TD to tie the game at 7-all. It was a sequence that proved to be crucial as Iowa State's offense got largely bogged down after that.
IOWA STATE'S DEFENSE
Iowa State, which gave up 37 in a loss to a dynamic Oklahoma team last week, continues to be the program's strong point. JaQuan Bailey had 3.5 tackles for loss and forced a fumble, and Lawrence White and Greg Eisworth each finished with nine overall tackles.
Akron never reached the red zone, yet another sign of how well Iowa State's defense played. ...Noland was 26 of 34 passing, but too often the Cyclones seemed to settle for safe passes that failed to move the chains. They were just 6 of 16 on third downs. ...Nelson was 12 of 28 passing, and he added 56 yards rushing on a team-high 15 carries and a 26-yard TD pass to Andre Williams. ...Assalley also connected from 27 and 37 yards.
Montgomery had all 16 of Iowa State's carries in the first half. He was substituted out more than once in the second half, but Campbell didn't sound too concerned after the game. "I think he's fine. Just got dinged up a little bit. Just trying to be smart with it," Campbell said. "I didn't want to put ourselves in a situation where maybe he has a long term injury." Montgomery finished with his first 100-yard game of 2018.
HE SAID IT
"Really tough week, emotional week. To be honest with you, you hope a little bit of (Saturday) starts the healing process," said Campbell, whose team honored slain former star golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena in a pre-game ceremony. "I thought our kids responded and stayed the course."
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