116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers pitched the ball and Xavier Hutchinson turned those throws into home runs.
Hutchinson’s third catch in last Saturday’s 42-10 season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State became a 33-yard touchdown. His fifth catch? It was a touchdown spanning the same distance. And his sixth catch — you get the idea.
The Cyclones’ two-time first team All-Big 12 receiver snared that pass from Dekkers and scored an 8-yard touchdown.
“It was terrific,” Hutchinson said.
Now the challenge heightens — and the venue becomes hostile — as ISU seeks to quash a six-game Cy-Hawk Series skid against Iowa at 3 p.m. Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.
And however strong the connection between Dekkers and Hutchinson may be, it’s the supporting players, not the headliners, who likely will determine whether the Cyclones can cart the Cy-Hawk trophy off the field for the first time in head coach Matt Campbell’s six-plus season tenure.
“We’ll expect a really talented defense,” Campbell said of an Iowa defensive unit that recorded two safeties to seal a 7-3 season-opening win over South Dakota State. “Our efficiency across the board, whether it’s at receiver, or quarterback, offensive line, you know, we’ll certainly have to be improved.”
The Hawkeyes limited the Jackrabbits to 1.1 yards per carry last Saturday and ranked eighth nationally in rushing defense in 2021, which likely means running the ball against Iowa will again be a difficult proposition.
That’s where Dekkers, Hutchinson and an array of complementary weapons in the passing game come in. And while Hutchinson rightly garnered Week 1 plaudits for his three touchdown grabs, none of them would have occurred without big third-down plays from others.
- Facing a possible three-and-out on ISU’s initial possession last Saturday, Dekkers found dynamic sophomore Jaylin Noel for a 20-yard gain on third-and-9. Hutchinson scored six plays later.
- Facing another possible three-and-out on the subsequent series, backup tailback Cartevious Norton converted on a third-down run and Hutchinson scored two plays later.
- And facing yet another potential three-and-out situation, backup running back Eli Sanders eked out a 2-yard gain on third-and-1. Five plays later, Dekkers connected with tight end Easton Dean for 15 yards on third-and-8 and Hutchinson scored three plays later.
“We believe in Hunter as much as anybody,” Noel said of being one of the Cyclones’ wide-ranging targets. “We feel like he can put the ball anywhere he wants to and he makes smart decisions with the ball, so we’re very confident in him.”
The feeling’s mutual — and must continue to be if ISU’s offense is to avoid making the mistakes Iowa’s defense is so adept at forcing on a weekly basis.
“We’ve just got to make plays,” Noel said. “Catch the ball when he puts it there and execute from there, whether that’s run blocking, pass blocking, catching the ball in traffic. Just building that confidence as a whole and letting Hunter know that we have his back just as much as he has ours.”
That’s especially important in the Cy-Hawk game, where the noise — whether audible or social media-based — can reach a fever pitch.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Hutchinson said. “There’s not much to really say. We both don’t like each other. It’s a game you know you’re going to see in Week 2 and you know you’re going to have to be prepared to see them.”