Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Rocco Becht (3) looks for a play call in the first quarter during a college football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Nippert Stadium win Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Former Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy ended his celebrated college career by standing atop the program’s all-time chart in 32 statistical categories.
That voluminous number quietly shrank last week, as current Cyclone quarterback Rocco Becht threw his 17th touchdown pass of the season to break Purdy’s two-year-old freshman record in a 26-16 loss to No. 7 Texas.
“It’s special just to be mentioned in the same category as Brock,” Becht said of the current and unlikely star playcaller for the San Francisco 49ers. “People look up to him and admire him on the field and off the field.”
Becht’s also drawing accolades for his burgeoning leadership qualities from teammates and coaches alike entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. Big 12 regular-season finale at No. 19 Kansas State (FOX) in Manhattan, Kan.
He’s no Brock Purdy, of course, but he is developing into an elite version of Rocco Becht, which bodes well for the Cyclones (6-5, 5-3) as they try to topple the Wildcats (8-3, 6-2) in advance of their sixth bowl game in the past seven seasons.
“He knows what he’s about,” said ISU head coach Matt Campbell, whose team seeks to notch two or more consecutive wins at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the first time in more than 30 years. “He’s not trying to be anybody else. He’s trying to be the best version of himself and he’s got that trait, and I think that really allows him to work through and navigate through the hard things.”
Few conference rivals have been harder on the Cyclones in recent decades than Kansas State, which owns two 10-game win streaks in the series since 1993. Manhattan’s been the site of the infamous picked-up flags game that framed ISU’s 20-19 loss in 2017, as well as the fumble-laced meltdown two seasons earlier that effectively ended the Paul Rhoads era.
“I think this is one of the — in my opinion — great places to play in college football,” Campbell said. “I think their gameday environment is electric. Obviously, the tradition that they’ve created there makes it that way, and then makes it a real challenge to play there.”
Adversity will come. Struggles are inevitable. Becht’s been particularly good at responding to such tension-packed situations, as ISU offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase noted this week.
“Truthfully, he had a couple of days that weren’t his best both in the spring and the fall and came back to have a good next three practices, which I think is really hard to do,” Scheelhaase said.
Becht’s demonstrated the same even-keel disposition in difficult times during his first season as the starter, as well. He’s thrown just three interceptions in the past four games, but after two of those errant throws he led the Cyclones on a touchdown drive in the ensuing possession. So Becht’s resilient. He doesn’t panic after making mistakes. He shrugs them off and sharpens his focus.
“The quarterback position is never gonna be perfect,” Campbell said. “I saw Brock had a perfect passer rating (in the 49ers win last weekend) and I still know in the game it wasn’t perfect. And to me, the great quarterbacks that I’ve had the opportunity to be around (have the) ability to respond in the moment.”
ISU’s snaked through a multitude of both scintillating and stormy moments while rebounding from its first losing season since 2016. And Becht’s been at the center of many of them because of his position as well as his demeanor. Former Cyclone standout tight end Charlie Kolar of the Baltimore Ravens once said, ‘There’s beauty in the struggle,’ and it’s a phrase that Becht takes to heart.
“We’ve stayed the course, no matter how many ups and downs there were, just as a team and myself,” said Becht, who has also eclipsed Purdy’s freshman record for passing yards by pushing his total to 2,444 this season. “We’ve been able to push through that and fight adversity.”