Cyclones break into win column

AP PHOTO - Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler (18) dives over Akron defensive back Jordan George (7) to complete a 24-yard touchdown reception in the first half of a college football game Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Iowa State won 26-13.

AMES — 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.

Zeb Noland threw for 233 yards and a touchdown, David Montgomery had 107 yards rushing and a score and Iowa State held off Akron 26-13 on Saturday for its first win of the season.

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.

THE TAKEAWAY

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.

THE NUMBERS

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.

ON MONTGOMERY

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.

Iowa St. 26, Akron 13

At Ames

Akron 7 3 3 0 — 13

Iowa St. 7 10 0 9 — 26

First Quarter

AKR–A.Williams 26 pass from Nelson (Gasser kick), 6:23

ISU–H.Butler 24 pass from Noland (Assalley kick), 3:36

Second Quarter

ISU–FG Assalley 27, 10:45

AKR–FG Gasser 45, 5:21

ISU–Montgomery 1 run (Assalley kick), :30

Third Quarter

AKR–FG Gasser 49, 7:59

Fourth Quarter

ISU–FG Assalley 29, 14:56

ISU–FG Assalley 33, 9:50

ISU–FG Assalley 37, :30

TEAM STATISTICS

AKR ISU

First downs 15 21

Rushes-yards 31-91 35-132

Passing 153 233

Comp-Att-Int 12-28-1 26-34-0

Return Yards 26 130

Punts-Avg. 6-28.16 4-39.25

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-2

Penalties-Yards 6-45 5-50

Time of Possession 26:29 33:31

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Akron, Nelson 15-56, Edwards 12-23, Sands 2-7, A.Williams 1-4, Smith 1-1, T.Brown 0-0. Iowa St., Montgomery 23-107, Lang 7-22, Croney 1-6, Nwangwu 2-3, Purdy 1-(minus 1), Noland 1-(minus 5).

PASSING–Akron, Nelson 12-28-1-153. Iowa St., Noland 26-34-0-233.

RECEIVING–Akron, Stewart 4-52, Morris 3-37, A.Williams 2-45, Smith 1-13, Edwards 1-5, Traylor-Bennett 1-1. Iowa St., H.Butler 6-88, Des.Jones 6-39, Eaton 4-28, Milton 4-15, Croney 2-20, Akers 1-26, Lang 1-7, Seonbuchner 1-6, Montgomery 1-4.