Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones offense shines, takes down West Virginia


Jacob Rice

Dekkers floats a short pass in 31-14 win over West Virginia.

Christian Royston, Sports Reporter

AMES — Iowa State fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the Cyclones snap their losing streak and pick up their first Big 12 win of the season.

The homecoming magic was in the air of Jack Trice Stadium, as the Cyclones put on their most dominating performance of the Big 12 season. The offense was back to excellence and the defense was as good as always, as the Cyclones took down the Mountaineers 31-14.

With a bowl game hope on the horizon, the win was as important as ever, and gave the Cyclones an edge in the battle for the bottom of the Big 12.

Defense, Defense, Defense

Iowa State showed why it has the top-ranked defense in the Big 12. No matter where West Virginia players found themselves on the field, there was an Iowa State defender close by.

Iowa State’s defense started hot, as it has done in most games this season. The Cyclones were stuffing holes to keep West Virginia’s run game at bay. Iowa State defenders also found themselves in the right places at the right times to keep the ball out of the air.

“Man, those guys are playing great football,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said. “They believe; they’re consistent. They’re giving us a chance to win every football game.”

With the first half drawing to a close, it looked as though the defense may be perfect on the day. However, exhaustion started to show.

In the final minutes of the first half, West Virginia started to gain momentum, picking apart Iowa State’s defense. 

With less than a minute left in the half, Iowa State cornerback TJ Tampa was tasked with guarding West Virginia’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton on his path to the end zone. Ford-Wheaton made a move on Tampa to gain enough separation to snag a touchdown and put the game within one possession. A rare slip up in Tampa’s usual great performances.

“TJ Tampa is playing like I expected him to play a little minute ago,” safety Anthony Johnson said. “TJ’s that dude and since he’s stepped over to the dark side, I’m like man, this guy’s got a chance to be really special.”

However, that one bad drive would be the only blemish on a day of perfection. The only other points West Virginia would get were during garbage time, with the game as well as wrapped up.

Throughout the game, Iowa State left West Virginia with no breathing room. The defensive line swallowed any rush attempt and pressured West Virginia quarterback JT Daniels on most of his throws.

The aggressiveness of the defense caused mistakes from West Virginia and kept big plays from happening. The pressure of the defense paid off, as Johnson came up big on an underthrown ball from Daniels. Johnson dove back for the ball, securing his second interception of the season, as well as the second of his career.

Although turnovers weren’t much of a factor, the amount of West Virginia drives going nowhere was a big part of the dominating win. West Virginia ended the game with around half the time of possession of Iowa State. The Mountaineers also ended with around half the total yards.

“We definitely took a step in the right direction, but we didn’t close the door,” Johnson said.

The nail in the coffin from Iowa State’s defense came late in the final quarter. Trailing 24-7, West Virginia was desperately trying to get things moving. 

However, on second down, Iowa State linebacker O’Rien Vance found his way past the offensive line and got a hold of Daniels for a sack. One play later, the pressure came again as Will McDonald IV and MJ Anderson came up with sacks of their own near the end zone. Those sacks ended West Virginia’s drive and set up the Cyclones’ offense with great field position, leading to another touchdown.

Hutchinson’s historic season continues

Hutchinson went into Saturday’s game gunning for the record books. The 2021 season saw Hutchinson become the king of receptions at Iowa State, breaking the single-season record with 83 catches.

However, with many pieces in the passing game moving on, Hutchinson entered the season as a clear safety net for quarterback Hunter Dekkers. He had been terrorizing opposing defenses, getting at least eight catches in every single game. 

“I don’t know if I could say enough great things about Xavier,” Campbell said. “We wouldn’t even have the chance to be where we are at today without Xavier Hutchinson.”

Going into Saturday, Hutchinson was just seven receptions away from breaking his own record that he set just a season ago. That six-reception hurdle seemed too easy for Hutchinson to overcome, and it turned out that it was.

Just a few minutes into the second half, Dekkers found Hutchinson for his sixth reception of the day to tie up the record. The next drive, the record would fall.

“It’s honestly amazing to always see your hard work pay off,” Hutchinson said.

Just halfway through the third quarter, Hutchinson caught his 84th catch of the season to inch himself closer to the top of Iowa State’s reception leaderboard. 

Along with the record-breaking receptions, Hutchinson finished the day with 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown would be the first time he saw the end zone since Big 12 play started.

“Man, it’s been great for a guy like Hunter to believe in me and for me to have Hunter,” Hutchinson said.

It was clear that the Dekkers and Hutchinson connection was back, and the offense blossomed from it.

No Brock, no problem

Deon Silas celebrates first down after long run. (Jacob Rice)

The Cyclones struggled in each of their five losses to move the ball on the ground. It was clear that the stagnant run game was a source of frustration for the team.

In recent weeks, injuries to running backs Jirehl Brock and Cartevious Norton limited what the Cyclones could do on the ground. Although they were both healthy going into the game, the injury bug came back to bite.

Brock rushed forward for a routine rush, but took an awkward hit, sending him to the ground. After he was helped off the field, Brock was carted to the locker room. From that point, it looked as though the run game might be doomed.

“It looked bad and he was in a lot of pain,” Campbell said. “I think the positive is that he is as tough as they come.”

Brock came back out from the locker room late in the first half and warmed up on the sideline, but it was clear he wasn’t at 100 percent. To be safe, Campbell kept him from playing any more snaps on the day.

“Man, you feel bad for Jirehl,” Hutchinson said. “A guy who’s put in so much hard work, waited his turn and to see him go out like that, it hurts. It hurts deep down. But at the same time, his character on the sideline, guiding them, that speaks to his volume of who he is as a person.”

Although Brock’s talent gives the run game an added dimension, the Cyclones adapted well without him. 

Norton and Deon Silas showed how dangerous they could be, rushing for over 150 yards combined. Even wide receiver Jaylin Noel got a piece of the action, taking a reverse play 27 yards down the field.

When talking about Silas, Campbell only had good things to say.

“He’s provided spark, he’s provided efficiency and I’m really happy for him,” Campbell said. “In the football game today, I thought his play was one of the big sparks in the football game.”

Silas showed off his speed on a pair of rushes, breaking through tackles to pick up two gains of over 30 yards. He ended the game leading the team with 77 rushing yards.

The real breakout of the day was none other than Norton. Since week one, Norton has been slightly banged up and hasn’t had a chance to prove himself.

“For a guy like Cartevious, this was really the second game of his career,” Campbell said.

The true freshman was healthy as ever and paved the way for the run game, exposing West Virginia at every turn. He rushed for 75 yards, averaging nearly four yards per carry.

Norton shined in what proved to be his first game leading the running back group. Up until that point, Norton hadn’t had a chance to find the end zone. However, it seemed as though Norton was living in the end zone against West Virginia.

Late in the second half, Norton found the end zone for the first touchdown of his young career. Shortly after he found the end zone again.

Brock being out allowed the young running backs to shine and prove to the world what Campbell has been preaching. 

“We believe in those guys,” Campbell said. “I really think it’s a very talented room.”

Every cog in the machine was running smoothly for what seemed like the first time in Big 12 play. Because of that, the Cyclones were rewarded with a win.