Cyclone football is FINALLY back. With Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, Charlie Kolar, Mike Rose, and many others off in the NFL and graduating, 2022 is a real changing of the guard in Ames, Iowa. Kicking off the new campaign, the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks come to town. It’s time, ladies and gents. Football is back.
What Went Wrong
End of the 1st Half
It wouldn’t be an Iowa State season opener if things went flawlessly, though, for much of the game, it seemed to be going just like that for the Cyclones. The one big hiccup for the Cyclones came in the final five minutes of the first half. Taking over after a Redhawk missed field goal, the Cyclones quickly went backward (two penalties and a negative three-yard pass) in a 3-and-out drive. The Redhawks, with now just 3 minutes left in half, proceeded to go on a 4-play, 67-yard drive that included a 41-yard pass from Paxton DeLaurent to Ryan Flournoy (who took it away from double-coverage) to get their first score of the game, cutting the Cyclone lead to 21-7. The following Cyclones’ drive ended even sooner than their last as on 2nd and five at their own 26-yard line; Hunter Dekkers made his one really big mistake. Dekkers stared down Darren Wilson Jr. and was intercepted by Joedrick Lewis, setting up the Redhawks to tack on a field goal in the final minute. In the blink of an eye, a 21-0 lead was 21-10 at the half.
It’s not that the Cyclones’ run game (and run blocking, for that matter) was all that bad, per se. The Cyclones totaled 176 yards on the ground on 36 carries for an average of right around five yards per carry. Cartevious Norton and Jirehl Brock led the way at seven and six and a half yards per carry, respectively. The biggest problem was that it was a lot of those guys doing most of the work. Either breaking a tackle or making the first guy miss in some way. The offensive line didn’t bully the SEMO defensive front like one would probably expect from this veteran group. There wasn’t a whole lot of them getting to the second level to spring the big run, like from what we’ve seen even in the most recent Cyclone years. Iowa State will need to improve there in a hurry, with the Hawkeyes' front seven looming in just a week’s time.
What Went Right
Hunter Dekkers (and Xavier Hutchinson)
Man, oh, man. If Saturday is any indication of what Hunter Dekkers and Xavier Hutchinson will do over the course of the year, I almost want to feel sorry for opposing defensive backs. Almost, but not quite.
Dekkers and Hutchinson combined for 128 yards and three scores in just one half of play (one catch for five yards in the second half.) Yes, you read that right. Hutchinson was awesome all day long. Crisp routes, good hands, and excellent after the catch when he needed to be. All that to say, Hunter Dekkers was just as good. With the exception of the interception mentioned before, Dekkers was basically flawless. He ended 25-31 for 293 yards and four scores (the fourth going to DeShawn Hanika in the 2nd half.) Dekkers only misfired six times all game, and at least two were drops. One each by Noel and Hutchinson. Tough catches to make for sure, but balls that were placed right where they needed to be out of the hand of Dekkers.
Looking forward to seeing Dekkers continue to improve as the season and his career both progress.
So for as inconsistent, as the offensive line looked run blocking on Saturday, the pass protection was absolutely brilliant. Not only did the offensive line not allow a sack the entire day, but SEMO also didn’t even record a QB hurry (according to ESPN) for the length of the game. Not a one. Maybe some of that can be attributed to who Iowa State was playing on Saturday, but they did exactly what they were supposed to do. This is what the Cyclones should be doing when they play teams like SEMO. Not that the Redhawks don’t have some talent on that team, but Iowa State should be getting to the point where this is what happens for our OL when we play FCS teams. I expect next week will be a real gauge of where we are when we head to Iowa City, but this was an excellent start to keep Dekkers clean back there in the pocket.