Oct 6, 2018; Stillwater, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) celebrates with teammates after the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
Brock Purdy’s path to becoming Iowa State’s starting quarterback began the very first day that he stepped on campus. That’s when the 2017 Arizona Player of the Year began turning heads. On the practice field. In the weight room. In the film room. Everywhere.
Purdy, who led his high school team to a 6A state championship last season, has an aura about him. When Iowa State started to recruit him last winter, one animated source told me that the confidence Purdy carries himself with reminded him of a young Baker Mayfield.
Of course, that can be good and bad. Mayfield is one of the greatest college quarterbacks that has ever played the game. He won the Heisman Trophy and was the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He can walk around however he wants.
Purdy has a lot more to prove. If I know Matt Campbell at all, my guess is that Iowa State’s offensive coaches will be clamoring to find anything and everything that wasn’t perfect on Saturday to be the focus leading up to Saturday night’s showdown with No. 6 West Virginia (6 p.m. on FOX Sports 1).
To this day, I’ve been told by multiple players that the most difficult practice they ever endured came after last year’s shocking win at Oklahoma.
Where Purdy really won his coaches and teammates over was in the film room. A day during fall camp goes like this: In the early afternoon before practice, the different position groups break out into their respective rooms before practice to watch film. The same happens after practice. This is football’s version of going to class. The position coach teaches while the pupils take notes. Purdy, whose mettle is contagious, speaks up. In a room that includes a soft-spoken sixth-year senior (Kyle Kempt), a charismatic sophomore from the south (Zeb Noland) and a fellow true freshman (Re-al Mitchell), Purdy is by far the most vocal of the bunch.
It’s probably the reason why the guy Purdy replaced on Saturday, Noland, who has completed 64 percent of his passes with a 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, sent out this tweet on Sunday afternoon.
You deserve it @brockpurdy13 all the hard work and dedication! So proud of you man! Love you like a brother! Let’s continue pressing to get better and better and keep the clones rolling!! @KyleKempt he’s the man that makes it all work! All glory to God!! Go Cyclones!!
— Zeb Noland (@NolandZeb) October 8, 2018
A warning to all…
Brent Blum’s somewhat prophetic column last week should serve as a warning to all of us: When it comes to crowning quarterbacks at Iowa State, beware.
The same should go with writing off others.
One of my least favorite things that I see fans do is totally blowing off one kid when another one does something well. Just because Brock Purdy was insanely good on Saturday doesn’t mean that Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland all of the sudden suck. That’s not how it works.
Did you guys see Purdy running all over the field? All it takes is one hit for Iowa State to be back into the situation it was a week ago.
If this program wants to achieve its goals for the rest of the season, Noland and Kempt need to remain engaged and prepared to come out of the bullpen, just as Purdy was last Saturday in Stillwater. My guess is that they will.
Purdy does seem to have an “it” factor that we haven’t seen much of at Iowa State, but I trust a guy wearing an Iowa jersey in Hilton Coliseum more than I do stability in Ames at the quarterback position.
A tip of the cap: To first-year Iowa State quarterbacks coach Joel Gordon. These position coaches always get crushed when things aren’t going well and forgotten about when their guys succeed. By my count, Iowa State feels somewhat comfortable sending four different guys out at quarterback right now. Gordon deserves some credit for that.
Dig deeper: Your small-minded friend only looks at points and total yards will tell you that Iowa State’s defense didn’t play well on Saturday. That friend is an idiot. Oklahoma State might have scored 42 points, but the Cowboys averaged only 5.5 yards per play – their lowest output of the season.
Multiple: I will again go back to this column that I wrote in Dallas last July about Matt Campbell wanting Iowa State’s entire roster but specifically the defense to be more “multiple” in 2018. That’s exactly what we saw vs. the Cowboys. Prior to Saturday, Jon Heacock had been very passive with Iowa State’s scheme. Against mobile quarterbacks that Oklahoma, Akron and TCU brought to the table, the Cyclones brought three and dropped eight most of the time. At Oklahoma State, we saw a ferocious Iowa State defense that not only got pressure with three, but blitzed more than we have seen – maybe ever – during Heacock’s time at Iowa State. Why? It was respect for Taylor Cornelius’ arm. Iowa State knew that with Mike Gundy’s superb offensive system, it couldn’t allow for the Cowboys to ever be comfortable. Heacock’s game plan resulted in seven Iowa State sacks (!!!) and held Cornelius to only a 57 percent completion percentage.
On West Virginia: Iowa State’s salty defense currently ranks third in the Big 12 in opponents yards per play. TCU is No. 1, but most people wouldn’t be able to guess who is second … West Virginia. Dana Holgerson’s defense is legit. The Mountaineers are the only team in the Big 12 holding the opposition to under 20 points per game (18.6) and have been very tough to run against (ranked 14th national in rush defense).
But how battle tested are the Mountaineers? A 42-34 road win at Texas tech on Sept. 29 was impressive but other than that, West Virginia has beaten a bad Tennessee team, Youngstown State, Kansas State and Kansas.
Many pundits believe that West Virginia is currently the best team in the Big 12. They might be. We will learn a lot about that on Saturday night in Ames.