Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy throws a pass in Saturday’s 31-14 loss to Louisiana. Photo credit: Russell Luna/Iowa State University Athletics Communications
AMES — There were five or six drops, a couple of missed pass interference calls and no big plays.
But Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy placed the blame for a lackluster passing game in Saturday’s dispiriting 31-14 loss to Louisiana on himself.
The star junior always does, really — when things don’t go as planned.
“I never got in rhythm,” said Purdy, who three for the second-fewest yards (145) in his career. “They did a good job of bringing blitzes and sort of getting me uncomfortable in some areas, but still I think I need to do better. I need to do a better job of getting our guys together offensively. I think we’ve got a great number of leaders who will help me out with moving forward and I think I’m going to look in the mirror and get better from this, for sure.”
Doubt him at your peril.
In 2019, Purdy set program season records in passing yardage (3,982), passing touchdowns (27), completions (312), total offense (4,231) and 300-yard passing games (6).
Saturday was a low-output aberration against an often overshadowed Ragin’ Cajun defensive backfield that collected two turnovers and shut the Cyclones out in the second half.
Purdy’s longest completions were a pair of 16-yarders to Xavier Hutchinson and Chase Allen.
A handful of shots downfield from Purdy were either slightly overthrown or well defended.
“I think there were some balls pushed vertically down the field,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “We didn’t make many plays on them. I think that probably is the thing that was — (it) absolutely showed up and was really a big difference in the game, right? They made a couple big plays and we didn’t really make any of those big plays in terms of the passing game. Again, those things, hats off to their secondary, but I don’t know if that was the plan. I know we like to push the ball vertically down the field and to me we just didn’t have much success doing that when we did.”
Purdy will almost certainly bounce back as the Cyclones begin prep for the Sept. 26 Big 12 opener at TCU because he approaches both superlative and sub-par performances in the exact same way: as learning opportunities.
“Brock is Brock,” Allen said. “We all know Brock and he’s one of the better players who’s ever played here. So we have complete faith in Brock and just finding the best way to get him in a groove and make him feel comfortable so he can be the explosive player that he is, we’re going to figure out how to do that.”
KOLAR, DOWNING UPDATES
The offense obviously missed All-American tight end Charlie Kolar, who was not dressed because of a lower-body injury. The junior playmaker is often Purdy’s target of choice on pivotal passing plays, but Purdy said having him on the sidelines instead of the field didn’t alter the Cyclones’ game plan.
“I thought Dylan (Soehner) and Chase did a great job in all that they did,” Purdy said. “There are some areas we can do better on timing and stuff and, again, I take that on myself. But I don’t think anything (gameplan-wise) changed because Charlie was out.”
While Kolar never played in the season opener, one of ISU’s standout linemen, guard Trevor Downing, went down late in the first half with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. Campbell said he’s optimistic both Downing and Kolar will be back for the matchup with the Horned Frogs later this month.
“I think we all know (Downing is) such an anchor to the success of our offensive line, so anytime you lose an anchor, that’s never easy,” Campbell said. “I do think that Noah Juergensen went in and for a veteran senior here, did an admirable job of doing his job and doing what was needed. But Trev is a game-changer for us. That’s a guy we’ve got to get back on the football field and we hope he will be ready to go for our next football game.”
As for Kolar’s eventual return to the lineup?
“He’s really kind of day to day,” Campbell said. “Charlie, just going through some offseason stuff, and working to get him back to full strength. I think he’s really close to being back on the football field for us.”
DYNAMIC D-LINE PLAY
Campbell was very impressed with his defensive line’s performance — and the defense’s in general — on Saturday.
Former JUCO star Latrell Bankston made his Cyclone debut at defensive tackle and posted a sack while helping ISU put significant pressure on Louisiana’s star quarterback, Levi Lewis, who totaled just 154 passing yards and one 78-yard touchdown toss.
Soon-to-be all-time Cyclone sacks leader JaQuan Bailey — who missed most of last season with a knee injury — also looked spry and disruptive while notching a tackle for loss. Enyi Uwazurike also provided strength up front and in gaps, while defensive coordinator Jon Heacock was able to cycle in several players along each level of the defense. Uber-athletic end Will McDonald also provided a pair of sacks in key moments.
“JaQuan Bailey and Will McDonald — both of those guys looked really good,” Campbell said. “I thought our defensive front played with great tenacity. They played exactly how you expect that defensive front to play like. It’s great to have JaQuan back out there — that’s a huge win for us.”
“We just had a great conversation in the locker room about this. We’ve been in this situation before, especially these seniors, going down first game, so we’re no strangers to having our back up against the wall… The biggest thing we have to do is just stay within our bubble as far as physically and mentally. Stay in the locker room. Don’t listen to all the outside noise. People are going to want to call us dead after this first game and say we’re the old Iowa State but that’s just not true.” — Tight end Chase Allen
The Cyclones fell to 21-5 all-time under Campbell when leading at halftime… Senior Kene Nwangwu scored his first career rushing touchdown… Sophomore Breece Hall notched his fifth career 100-yard rushing game… ISU fell to 8-16 in the Campbell era when finishing with a negative turnover margin and 1-6 when minus-two in turnover margin.