Sep 15, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Hakeem Butler (18) catches a touchdown pass against the Oklahoma Sooners at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — David Montgomery laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
Is the Cyclones’ star running back ever surprised when Hakeem Butler makes a play like he did with 13:15 left in the second quarter of Iowa State’s 37-27 loss to No. 5 Oklahoma? You know, the play in which Butler broke four tackles while sprinting 51-yards to the end zone and most certainly into SportsCenter’s Top 10?
One of the best plays you’ll see all weekend by Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler pic.twitter.com/a8lrszSnm9
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) September 15, 2018
“Nah, Keem’s been doing that in camp so when he makes it I’m just like, ‘Okay.’ It’s really not surprising to me,” Montgomery said. “It’s crazy. Teams are going to start keying him now. I was getting keyed for a while but now they’ll start keying Keem, which can be a problem in many facets. Just to be able to have Keem out there is definitely a blessing knowing he’ll be able to go up and get the ball.”
It comes as no surprise to Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, either. He challenged Butler, who finished the day with five catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns, to become the Cyclones’ go-to guy after the program’s win over Memphis in the Liberty Bowl last December.
With Allen Lazard graduating and taking almost every major receiving record with him, it was time for Butler to step into the limelight as the Cyclones’ pass-catching workhorse in his redshirt junior season.
“He’s been the most consistent that I have ever seen a big play receiver be in a long time through the last nine months,” Campbell said. “That helps a guy like Zeb (Noland) settle in and have confidence. Whoever is at quarterback, whether it’s Kyle, whether it’s Zeb, whether it’s whomever, he gives you a chance.”
Butler obviously played at a high-level for the Cyclones during the first two seasons of his career. I mean, he did enter the program’s top-10 all-time in career receiving touchdowns with his second one of the day and the 11th of his career.
He was never the go-to guy. He was never the man. He was never Allen Lazard and that’s okay.
After Saturday’s performance, none of that matters. Hakeem Butler is Hakeem Butler and Hakeem Butler is a freak prepared to fill the shoes left by Lazard.
“It was just game plan stuff. We knew there was going to be a hole in the defense. We just executed and Zeb put it in the right spot,” Butler said of his tackle-breaking touchdown reception.
“From there, it was just all me.”