Defensive tackle leads improved Kansas State line

Updated: October 9, 2003, 9:21 PM ET

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Five years ago, Justin Montgomery didn't even know how to set up in the three-point stance of a defensive lineman. Apparently, he figured it out.

Years after converting from linebacker, the position he played in high school, Montgomery has become a key figure on a defensive line that improved from early-season miscues to put constant pressure last weekend on a Texas team known for its passing.

Collectively, the defense forced six sacks and broke up five passes against the Longhorns, one of the season's best efforts.

"I'm pleased with our front seven," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "They played hard. They played aggressively. They played smart. We got good push in the middle on the pass rush. I was pleased with their performance."

The defensive line's performance could be even more important this week when the No. 22 Wildcats face quarterback Josh Fields and Oklahoma State.

"Dominating the line will be the key to the whole game," Montgomery said. "Passing is what they do. So we have to get pressure and rattle Fields."

Fields has passed for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games. Wide receiver Rashaun Woods, who has 539 receiving yards and averages 16.8 yards per catch, has caught nine of those 11 touchdown passes.

"Getting pressure on Fields will be crucial," defensive coordinator Bob Elliott said. "If he gets comfortable and has time to throw, Katy bar the door."

Montgomery's energy has been a constant for the Wildcats. He has 37 tackles, three sacks and leads the team with six quarterback hurries. He had seven tackles, two pass deflections and one quarterback hurry against Texas last week.

"He's playing hard," Elliott said. "That's what he does. He's a flailer and a banger. He's just a great motor guy. He goes on pure guts and energy."

Montgomery, a senior from Smith Center, came to Kansas State in 1999 as a 225-pound linebacker. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett thought he'd be better suited a defensive tackle.

Montgomery hit the weights and gained 55 pounds and started some games his sophomore and junior years before securing the starting job this season.

He's started in every game so far.

"I lifted hard and worked hard in the weight room," he said. "I just hung in there and learned from the other tackles."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index