‘When we needed it the most’: Iowa State wins mistake-filled CyHawk battle


Jacob Rice

Quarterback Hunter Dekkers runs the ball during 10-7 CyHawk win on Sept. 10.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Cyclones were on a six-game losing streak going into Saturday’s CyHawk matchup. Not only that, they hadn’t come away with a win in the series in the Matt Campbell era.

It’s obvious something needed to change.

One big issue for the Cyclones was ball security. The turnover battle wasn’t just skewed in Iowa’s favor, Iowa dominated it.

In the last six losses, Iowa led the turnover battle, 9-0. It seemed almost tradition for the Cyclones to shoot themselves in the foot and find a way to lose against the Hawkeyes.

One thing was for sure, mistakes would decide the winner. 

“At the end of the day that’s football,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s a game of imperfection.”

It was clear that it wasn’t going to be which team made the most mistakes, but which team came back from their mistakes. Iowa’s offense was bound to stagnate, while the young Iowa State offense was bound to have errors.

When it came down to it, Iowa State showed the poise needed to clutch up after the mistakes and take advantage of Iowa’s. Both teams turned the ball over three times. Still a lot, but more even than years past.

However, Iowa State led the mistake category, with two punts getting blocked. Special teams woes are nothing new in the CyHawk game, but the Cyclones showed more maturity and were able to stop the bleeding before Iowa could run away with the game.

“You just have to keep playing. You can’t dwell on that last play, because you can’t take it back,” Iowa State quarterback Hunter Dekkers said. “I mean you already made the mistake, so you have to move onto the next play.”

For three quarters Iowa controlled the game, forcing one more turnover than the Cyclones in addition to the blocked punts. Dekkers tried forcing balls where they couldn’t go, while the Iowa State defense kept Iowa from getting into a groove.

Leading 7-3 in the third quarter and driving the ball, the Hawkeyes were looking to put the game away as they lined up on the one-yard line.

Iowa fullback Monte Pottebaum took the ball into his hands and rumbled forward for what should have been an easy touchdown until senior linebacker O’Rien Vance showed up to force a fumble. When it mattered most, Vance made the play.

What would have catapulted Iowa to a 14-3 lead instead was the start of the biggest momentum-shifting drive of the game. What started late in the third quarter was an Iowa State drive that didn’t end until halfway through the fourth quarter.

Dekkers had already made a handful of mistakes in the game, and the offense as a whole left much to be desired. Iowa State had plenty of opportunities to pull ahead but failed to capitalize on them.

This time was different. Dekkers looked more poised than ever.

“To be honest, I felt really confident in this game the whole time,” Dekkers said. “Just making little mistakes that didn’t come from nerves, it was kinda just me being dumb.”

After getting two safeties in the first week against South Dakota State, the Iowa Defense was drooling at the sight of Dekkers lining up practically inside his own end zone. Iowa’s defense had played picture-perfect on the day and rarely gave Iowa State any breathing room.

From the start, it looked as though Iowa’s defense was going to suffocate Iowa State’s offense. After a slow first drive, Iowa made the most of the opportunity and blocked Iowa State’s punt which led to Iowa’s only touchdown of the day.

Iowa State wasn’t going to let the early mistakes weigh on their mind. The defense clutched up time and time again to stop the Hawkeyes from pulling out of reach.

“You have to weather the storms early on,” Campbell said. “I thought our ability to handle some imperfection early, that’s big.”

Iowa State went through pretty much every play in the book on their march down the field. Starting on their own one-yard line, they fired off 21 plays to go 99 yards into the Iowa end zone.

Hutchinson was Dekkers’ safety net through the entire game, hauling in double-digit catches and getting a majority of the receiving looks on the team at that point in the game. If anyone was going to make the play to pull Iowa State ahead, it was going to be him.

With Dekkers going through his reads, Hutchinson beat his man in the end zone. Wide open, Dekkers made the throw to put the final points on the board for either team. Iowa State led 10-7.

Iowa had struggled to move down the field the entire day, and with eight minutes left to play, the Iowa State defense knew they just had to do their job. 

In the past, Iowa State would have let its mistakes bite them in the butt. Now, they came back from them poised and ready to wipe the slate clean. The maturity of the young Cyclones team was improved and it showed.

Who’s to say what lit the fire under the Cyclones in the 99-yard drive? It could have been Campbell’s halftime speech.

When Iowa State went back into the locker room trailing 3-7, Campbell knew exactly how to stir the team up. He talked about the sixth-grade girl’s softball team he coached to a championship over the summer. When trailing 2-4, they came back to lead 5-4 after just one inning.

“If our sixth-grade girls can do this against Roland-Story for a championship, you guys can get this thing figured out here in the second half,” Campbell said. 

Whatever sparked the Cyclones in the second half was the factor in their win. Handling adversity and coming back from mistakes was what allowed Iowa State to hold off Iowa.

At the end of the day, the game ended with a mistake. Iowa’s final field goal attempt was wide left, giving Iowa State the 10-7 win. The first CyHawk win in the Matt Campbell era.

“We didn’t always finish, but when we needed it the most [we did]. I think you can say that about our entire team today,” Campbell said. “When we needed it the most, we made the plays.”