By Sam Kienzle
There was Indiana-McNutt-McNutt-Indiana atomic energy flowing all around Saturday. Blame it on Indiana’s historically incompetent defenses or senior receiver Marvin McNutt’s penchant for seeing the Hoosiers’ colors and thinking they’re a trembling Sun Belt team. Also, one could blame the palpable ghoulishness of the season. Jack O’ Lanterns are rich in palpable ghoulishness. I digress.
Whatever it may be, since his first year as a former quarterback turned wide out in 2008, Mr. McNutt has done the goofy and the great at Indiana’s expense. He has regularly done the trick-or-treat shuffle up to Indiana’s house, finding the “Please Take One” bowl and rightly relieving the Hoosiers of all of their Tootsie Rolls. When will they learn? No child ever takes just one Tootsie. Moving on. Last year, McNutt got Iowa out of Indiana with a victory, catching Iowa’s only touchdown of the day in a foreboding 18-13 win at Indiana. His Indiana file also includes:
-McNutt’s first ever catch as a newly minted wide receiver: Indiana, 2008 (1 catch, 11 yards)
-McNutt’s career high for yards receiving in a game prior to Saturday: Indiana, 2009 (4 catches, 155 yards, 1 touchdown)
-McNutt’s totals from Saturday: 6 catches, 184 yards and 3 touchdowns
McNutt ranks second in the Big Ten in receiving yards (757), behind A.J. Jenkins of Illinois, who has 987 yards on the year. McNutt also has 21 fewer catches than Jenkins, with 41 after Saturday’s swiftness. Jenkins had a similar game against Illinois, catching 6 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. By now, the league’s premium wide receivers must know this to be the “Indiana bump.”
Barring injury, it’s realistic that McNutt will get well over 1,000 yards receiving, which Iowa hasn’t seen since Kevin Kasper barely broke the K mark in 2000 with 1010 yards. And even if he slowed down compared to the first half of the season, McNutt could wrangle 30 career touchdowns and 14 for a peaking senior year. After this year’s seventh game, McNutt has already matched his season totals for touchdowns (8) from 2009 and 2010 (8 touchdowns each season). He only needs three more touchdown catches to tie Maurice Brown’s single season record from 2002 and 280 yards to surpass Keith Chappelle’s single season record of 1037 yards.
These are all plausible goals, but I do expect McNutt’s production to dip a bit, as Iowa faces defenses born of the beastly (Michigan State) to the improved (a.k.a. Not Indiana’s or Northwestern’s), like Michigan, Purdue, and Nebraska. Come to think of it, Iowa hasn’t really rattled any good defenses this year. Iowa’s dismal 3 points against Penn State has been the only test thus far, and the Hawks clearly failed that day.
However the rest of the year unfolds, Iowa fans will remember McNutt for being a smooth and consistent pass catcher. He will be the first Iowa receiver drafted since Kevin Kasper, a safe assumption based on his unequivocal physical talents and measurables, not to mention his eventual statistics. It’s going to be neat to see what McNutt does in the NFL, and few should expect to see a weapon like “7” come around anytime soon. Oh, I forgot about that Keenan Davis guy from Cedar Rapids. He’s pretty good. But he’d be hard pressed to end up anywhere near McNutt’s career totals, or pull off a Michigan State 2009 moment. McNutt off the slant!