Dec 5, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) rushes next to quarterback Brock Purdy (15) during their football game at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday. Iowa State would go on to defeat West Virginia 42-6. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — The stars shined. The team remained aligned. And Iowa State forged its indisputable path into the Dec. 19 Big 12 title game with alacrity and gusto in Saturday’s 42-6 shellacking of West Virginia at Jack Trice Stadium.
They absolutely “proved” they deserve to be the “home team” in Jerry’s World in a couple weeks.
The Cyclones (8-2, 8-1 Big 12) also left no doubt as to who was the better team — against a heretofore very good West Virginia team that stands 5-4 overall and 4-4 in conference play.
“I would be lying to you if I didn’t say it’s really exciting,” ISU star linebacker Mike Rose said after the triumph. “I’m just extremely happy for this team, but obviously our goal’s not just to get there. We’ve got to take these next two weeks very seriously and just do everything we can, in our power, to be our best when that day comes. But like I said, it’s awesome. Everything that everyone has sacrificed to get to this point, it’s good to finally get there, but it’s not done.”
Not even close.
ISU locked up its first conference crown of any type since tying Nebraska for a title in 1912 — a full six years before the global pandemic that preceded this one ravaged the nation and the world.
Quarterback Brock Purdy continued to play his best football down the stretch, completing 20 of 23 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards and a score.
““Elite,” Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said of his high-performing quarterback. “He’s been incredible since — we’ve played like he’s played down the stretch. It’s what you expect from a junior who has played a lot of football here and who is maybe one of the great leaders of all time in the history of this school. He has played close to how he’s capable of playing in every game down the stretch. It’s been really fun to watch him and he’s really special.”
Cue the other most consistent offensive star, Breece Hall. The Wichita, Kan., native broke two or three ankle tackles en route to the 23-yard touchdown run that started the game and finished with 153 yards rushing and receiving while scoring two touchdowns.
“Whatever we’ve got going right now, we’re gonna keep doing it, keep getting better,” Purdy said. “We’ll see if we can get it done in the Big 12 championship.”
Yes, we’ll see.
But if Saturday’s utter domination of a good and often-stingy West Virginia football team proves anything, it’s that ISU’s range of developed talent runs deep — well beyond the headliners such as Purdy and Hall (ahem, how about that offensive line today?).
“Up until this game, we were in every game throughout and in this one I don’t know if we were in it past the first quarter, and they soundly beat us,” Mountaineers coach Neal Brown told WVUsports.com after the game. “They’re playing with a lot of veteran guys. That quarterback has played a lot of games. They’ve had a bunch of offseasons (together) and that’s a big, strong group that’s been recruited for four, five years.”
Thus the postgame celebration wasn’t especially raucous. The Cyclones’ 124 players, whether they saw time on the field or not, did their respective jobs. No more. No less.
“If we want to continue to move forward, we have to learn from tonight and continue to get ourselves back into our habits of continuing to move forward,” Campbell said. “(The celebration) was a little bit subdued in that way and maybe that’s me and maybe that’s the senior class that still feels like there’s stuff left out there to prove.”
PASS RUSH PUSH
ISU sophomore Will McDonald struck for a pair of sacks to push his career total to 15.5, which ranks fifth all-time in school history. Cyclone senior JaQuan Bailey added one sack to push his record career total to 25.5.
“Those two are special football players and those guys have continued to improve,” Campbell said. “Obviously, JaQuan has played his best football of his career his senior year. I think coming back from that injury, going back to work and continue his growth has been a huge positive. And Will still a young player in our program and I see Will continuing to play great football. And I’m excited because I still think there’s a lot for Will to continue to grow so he can be his best as his career and his growth pattern continues. So we’re really fortunate to have both of those two young men in this program and they’ve done a great job for us.”
MORE PURDY PLAUDITS (AND RECORDS)
ISU’s junior quarterback notched his 22nd carer win as a play caller, passing the great Bret Meyer for the most wins from behind center in school history. He also tied Joel Lanning for the most rushing touchdowns for a Cyclones quarterback in program annals and has thrown at least three touchdown passes in there of his past four games.
“He’s so efficient right now,” said ISU star tight end Charlie Kolar, who spectacularly caught one of Purdy’s touchdown tosses Saturday with one arm and while being held. “I saw his stats. He was 20 for 23, which is pretty incredible efficiency, but it also goes beyond that. They way he leads the team, including that Baylor game (when) he threw three picks in the first half — the Brock in that game is the same Brock in the next game. He’s sitting back here so I don’t want to give him too many compliments because he’ll get too big-headed. But, no. He’s the same guy. The crazy thing is you guys see him on game days. He’s the same guy all the time. … I look up to him. I try to be more like him. The way he leads the team is incredible.”