Iowa State football mailbag: What did we learn about Hunter Dekkers in his starting debut?

Travis Hines
Des Moines Register

AMES — After so regularly having to slug and slog its way through season-openers against perennial FCS contender Northern Iowa, Iowa State got something a little simpler and a lot sweeter Saturday.

A blowout victory to begin the year.

The Cyclones had little trouble with Southeast Missouri in a 42-10 victory at Jack Trice Stadium that kicks off a new era for Iowa State with stalwarts and stars like Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, Mike Rose, Enyi Uwazurike and Charlie Kolar, among others, having moved on from their collegiate careers.

The opponent offered little resistance, but a no-doubter is certainly preferable to the 7-3 scare the Cyclones' next opponent, Iowa, had to suffer through in their opener against South Dakota State.

 It's a lone victory in Week 1 against an outmanned opponent, but, given the circumstances, Iowa State exceeded expectations Saturday.

That's a good place to start.

To the mailbag.

More:Iowa State football flourishes in new chapter with Hunter Dekkers at quarterback

Could Hunter Dekkers have been any better?

It wasn't a career debut for Dekkers, who saw mop-up duty in 2020 and spot duty in 2021, but it was the West Sioux product had never before been given the reins to the offense as the starter.

He responded by going 25-for-31 for 293 yards and four touchdowns, leading Iowa State to scores on each of its first four drives.

"I would almost say it'd be rude for me to say if it surprised me," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said of Dekkers, who took over for the program's standard at quarterback, Brock Purdy. "I really have great faith in Hunter Dekkers.

"I'm excited for him that it looked like it did today, I thought really efficient. And the great thing is there's still things he can grow from today in today's game, where man, he's going to have to continue to grow."

Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Hunter Dekkers on Saturday against SEMO.

The lone blemish for Dekkers was an ill-timed and ill-advised throw that ended with an interception and SEMO taking possession inside the 10-yard line late in the first half.

"The corner made a really good play on it, to be honest," Dekkers said of the pick. "I also kind of forced the ball a little too far inside."

Really, though, it was a day that went about as well as any Iowa State fan could have hoped. 

Dekkers was poised in the pocket. He showed arm strength and chemistry. He exhibited plenty of chemistry with all-Big 12 wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson, who scored touchdowns on the first three drives of the game on throws from Dekkers. There was production and efficiency.

Being able to put numbers on SEMO, though, is different than pouring it on against an Iowa team that looks to have another elite defense. Cy-Hawk is likely to be an extremely high-level test for Dekkers.

More:Peterson's thoughts in Iowa State's 42-10 win over Southeast Missouri State in opener

What happened to the replay system in the third quarter?

Around the middle of the third quarter, referee Derek Anderson announced to the Jack Trice Stadium crowd and ESPN+ audience that the game's instant replay system was "inoperable." A handful of plays later, Anderson again took to his mic to say that the system was, again, "operational."

Here's what happened, per the Big 12:

"Due to a technical glitch both relay systems, on site and off site, were off-line and inoperable, which by procedure was announced," Bob Burda, a Big 12 senior associate commissioner, wrote in an email to The Register. "In this rare instance, and in accordance with protocol the game proceeds without replay, calls on the field stand, and plays taking place during this period can not be reviewed when/if replay comes back on-line."

It was a very strange situation, and, in the opinion of this college football reporter, illustrative of the very problematic role instant replay plays in the game.

Replay being down didn't ultimately matter in a game that didn't have an obvious replay situation while the system was down and was also already teetering on blowout status. But, as anyone who has watched college football over the last 20 years can attest, to have a game without a feature that has become hugely influential is a red flag on the over-reliance on double-checking officials' work.

One of instant replay's inherent issues in the college game is its uneven application. It's dependent on how many cameras its broadcast partners send to games and where they're placed. There can be a huge disparity in cameras and placement from game to game, putting the system — and, potentially, games — in the hands of a third party whose interests do not align with providing a consistent replay infrastructure across games of differing interest levels.

Just in the Iowa State-SEMO game, replay was responsible for the ejection of the Redhawks' Bryce Norman. Replay tagged him for targeting and he was disqualified. A handful of plays later in the same third quarter, that replay would have been unavailable to officials.

College football has become incredibly reliant on instant replay, but its inconsistent application and now its potential in-game unreliability of availability — not to mention its role in regularly stretching games past four hours while examining the most minute details — make the current situation more problematic than many are either willing to realize or acknowledge.

Saturday, the snafu was no big deal, but it's not hard to imagine a situation or a game where it could have been catastrophic.

SEMO’s QB looked solid and their offense had 300+ total yards. Is Iowa State’s defense the weak link this year?

This would certainly seem to be a considerable overreaction.

Iowa State's defense looked sluggish on the opening drive of the game but otherwise clamped down against the Redhawks.

Certainly, there were some issues later in the game, but they appeared to be more situational than systemic.

Southeast Missouri State wide receiver Dylan McDonald (14) tries to avoid several Iowa State defensive players  during Iowa State's win on Saturday

"We settled in in the second half," Campbell said. "And we were fantastic in the second half. I feel like it took us a little bit to kind of settle ourselves in and it wasn't the fact of scheme or anything like that. It was the fact that man we had opportunities to make plays. And we just didn't early. And then we did a really great job in the second half."

The Redhawks managed just 74 yards and zero points in the second half. Obviously, not a major test against an Ohio Valley Conference opponent, but, again, it beats the alternative.

Travis Hines covers Iowa State University sports for the Des Moines Register and Ames Tribune. Contact him at or  (515) 284-8000. Follow him at @TravisHines21.