Oct 26, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws a pass against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the first quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — The pressure Brock Purdy faced in Saturday afternoon’s 34-27 loss to Oklahoma State was nothing new. Iowa State’s sophomore gunslinger had seen the Cowboys’ exotic blitzes and mix of coverages on film.
The pressure Purdy has never truly seen before is what comes in the aftermath of his 39-of-62 passing (yes, 62 pass attempts) for 382 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions performance in Iowa State’s first October loss since 2016.
For the first time since the sophomore sensation burst onto the scene the first Saturday in Oct. 2018, Purdy is the one feeling the heat. All three of his interceptions came in the fourth quarter with the first one going for a touchdown that broke a 27-27 tie with 6:47 left in the football game.
The following two turnovers came while Iowa State tried to climb out of another hole, having already fought back from a 21-10 deficit earlier in the game. When freshman running back Breece Hall crossed the goalline to tie the score with 9:06 left in the game, it looked like Purdy would be one of the game’s many heroes.
Then Purdy’s 56th pass of the game, intended for La’Michael Pettway, found the hands of Oklahoma State linebacker Malcolm Rogriguez.
“One day you’re the hero,” Purdy said. “The next day you’re the villain if you do something wrong.”
For one second, let’s ignore Purdy’s three interceptions, but it feels as though they could be the product of a slightly bigger problem from this game. Iowa State never should have been in a position where they were throwing 62 passes.
The Cyclones fell behind early, but they were, basically, completely out of that hole before there were 10 minutes left in the third quarter, trailing 21-20 after Hall’s first touchdown run of the day made the score 21-20.
At that moment, Iowa State should have gone back to the brand of football that allowed them to roll through the first three weeks of October relatively unchallenged. Run the ball, throw when it is called for and get the ball out of Purdy’s hands quickly.
Do not overthink it. Allow the playmakers you have on the field to make the plays we have seen them make countless times during the first eight weeks of the season.
“Gosh, I never go into any football game thinking I want to throw 60 passes,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “I think it’s hard for us to be the best version of us if we’re going to be that unbalanced at times.”
Purdy’s 62 attempts on Saturday against Oklahoma State tied a school record. He now sits alongside Todd Bandhauer’s performance against Texas in 1998.
The Cyclones lost that game 54-33. So, I guess, it could be worse.
This was the 12th time an Iowa State quarterback has thrown 50 or more passes in a game since 2000. What’s the Cyclones’ record in those games?
Sounds like a school record Purdy should never want to tie, or break, again.
“I thought we were going to be pretty well balanced. Have our running backs run the ball, throw when we needed to,” Purdy said. “But, I mean, just the way they ran their defense and everything, that’s just how it turned out. We had to throw it more than we expected.”
Now, back to those three interceptions.
This game has (HAS) to be a learning experience for Purdy, who moved up to No. 7 on Iowa State’s career passing chart in the game. He has flirted with disaster on multiple occasions already this season but was either bailed out by the opposing defense failing to capitalize or still winning the game and thus the errors were never really highlighted properly.
Honestly, Purdy probably should have been intercepted a few times against Oklahoma State before the Cowboys ever actually could corral one.
The idea of truly reigning Purdy in from his occasionally free-wheeling, gunslinging ways seems dangerous. Those things are big parts of why he has become one of the nation’s most prolific signal-callers just halfway through his second collegiate season.
But, there is nothing wrong with throwing the ball out of bounds rather than trying to throw back across his body over the middle of the field. There is absolutely nothing wrong with tucking the ball and running out of bounds even if it is for one-yard or no-gain rather than taking a back-breaking sack in which he held onto the ball too long.
“I didn’t play the best of my ability when it mattered in the fourth quarter,” Purdy said. “(Oklahoma State) did a lot of things that we sort of weren’t expecting. Still, you’ve got to execute and a lot of that is on me. I’ve got to be better with my decision-making when they’re bringing the heat.”
Purdy’s teammates have already started the process of grinding it into the head of their leader that Saturday’s loss wasn’t all on him. He wasn’t the one who gave up three huge plays to the explosive Oklahoma State offense during the first half. Sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar, who caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, pinned Purdy’s second interception directly on himself after the game.
As the team exited the Jack Trice Stadium field, it was also Kolar who pulled Purdy aside with a message.
“I just told him I loved him and that he’s our leader,” Kolar said. “We’re together in the wins and we’re together in the losses. Can’t break apart now.”
The heat is officially going to be on this program entering its second bye week and the month of November. A visit to Norman, Okla. and one of the nation’s most explosive teams awaits, even if they did fall to Kansas State in the land of the Vampire earlier on Saturday.
The heat started to find its way to Iowa State’s generally spectacular defense after it allowed the Cowboys to accumulate 186 of its 402 yards on three first-half plays. The heat already has started to find its way towards the Cyclones’ offensive staff following the play-calling decisions already detailed above.
Lastly, the heat is going to make its way to Purdy, Iowa State’s undenied offensive leader. If the Cyclones are going to continue working towards the goals they have set forth, they will have to hope he handles it better than he did at times on Saturday against Oklahoma State.
“I love him. I care about him. Wouldn’t rather have any other quarterback in the country than that guy,” Campbell said. “We wouldn’t even be where we’re at right now without Brock Purdy.”