Sep 14, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Nick Niemann (49) chases Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) at Jack Trice Stadium. Iowa beat Iowa State 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Brock Purdy opened eyes as soon as he stepped on campus at Iowa State.
The now-firmly ensconced starting quarterback impressed coaches last season throughout fall camp and into the season — and finally began truly turning heads during the week leading up to the TCU game.
“That week in practice, what I would tell you — and I think this is what sparked it for us the best week — was Brock was incredible,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said of his star sophomore play-caller, who will make his 13th consecutive start in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 matchup with TCU (3-1, 1-0) at Jack Trice Stadium. “I think we do a two-minute drill on Wednesdays, good on good, and Brock’s leading the team down the field and I was like, ‘Whoo. This guy is pretty good.”
Not good enough to supplant then-starter Zeb Noland, who has since transferred to North Dakota State, but Purdy’s time would come right after a disappointing 17-14 setback to the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth.
The following week at Oklahoma State, Purdy relieved Noland early and shined, completing 18 of 23 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 84 yards and a score — and a star was born in the Cyclones’ 48-42 upset win in Stillwater. ISU would win seven of the first eight games Purdy served as the primary quarterback and that rapid rise would be spurred by his work behind the scenes.
“Last year around this time I was just getting reps in practice predominantly and being ready to play in the game and stuff,” said Purdy, who has thrown for at least 276 yards in five straight games dating back to last season’s Alamo Bowl loss to Washington State. “It was just a special time to be ready to go in for the Oklahoma State game and I guess, really, the rest is history. That’s where we’re at right now.”
Purdy said consistency is the key for an always-moving, but often-sputtering ISU offense that’s stalled out repeatedly on the plus-side of the field. The Cyclones are 2-2, 0-1 but their two losses have come by a combined three points — and they held late fourth-quarter leads in both setbacks.
“Coach Manning really preached to us about mentally being right,” Purdy said about efforts to quell the ongoing struggles to finish drives in three of this season’s four games. “Don’t have the mindset of, ‘Oh gosh, we’ve got to get this,’ rather than going and attacking it. I think it’s a mindset deal, especially since we’re sort of young on the skill part of it. Again, we’re going to get better at it.”
PETERSEN POUNDING AWAY
Coach Campbell said standout senior defensive end JaQuan Bailey is “questionable to doubtful” for Saturday’s game, but he’s pleased with the development of sophomore backup Zach Petersen. Bailey — who is one sack from becoming ISU’s all-time leader — suffered an apparent ankle injury early in Saturday’s loss at Baylor and did not return.
“We’re really fortunate that that’s an area we have great depth,” Campbell said. “The one thing about Zach is he’s played the best out of all of our defensive lineman up to this date, anyway. JaQuan is a leader on our football team, JaQuan is a guy — if he’s not able to play — that can still make a huge impact on this football team. That’s an area where we have a lot of depth and we’re confident that the next man up will do a really good job for us.”
That’s Petersen, a 6-4, 262-pounder, who has 12 tackles this season and impresses his teammates with his sheer power and strength.
“He’ll run right through you, man,” sophomore linebacker Mike Rose said. “He loves a hit and he’s a powerful dude. I think that’s his best attribute, just getting vertical and letting us play off of him.”
THIRD DOWN WOES
Iowa State ranks a solid fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 21.8 points per game, but is tied for 97th nationally in third-down conversion percentage defense (42.9 percent).
Why the disparity for a generally stingy unit? Part bad luck, part a lapse in attention to detail.
“A little bit of it you’ve got to give some credit to some of the guys making plays,” Campbell said. “The teams that have made plays against us, the quarterbacks that made plays — you know, three of the last four games we’ve played really mobile quarterbacks. Guys that can not only hurt you in the passing game but hurt you with their feet. I think those are areas where you look back on some opportunities to get off the field and not getting off the field in some of those critical moments, it’s been a run here or a pass here. … It’s not scheme, it becomes detail. What allows us to get back to the fundamentals and details that allow us to be successful in those critical moments?”
Rose echoed his coach’s assessment.
“Having attention to detail on third down, I think, can really help us out,” said Rose, who ranks second on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5. “I feel like sometimes we’ve lacked that attention to detail on those critical downs, which we can’t do anymore.”
VEGAS SAYS …
The Cyclones opened as a one-point favorite, per Las Vegas oddsmakers, over TCU. The early action has pushed ISU’s predicted edge to 3.5 points, as of mid-Tuesday afternoon.