Brock Purdy, Jalen Hurts once staged an epic duel in college. Now, the QBs meet in NFC championship game.
No question, but classic enough for Iowa State radio personality John Walters to sign off the 2019 Cyclones-Oklahoma game broadcast with this?
Thanks for listening, and the next time Brock Purdy sees Jalen Hurts, it will be for an NFC championship.
“Sure, I did,” Walters said in jest this week. “I think I said that. I think I looked into that crystal ball.”
OK, maybe not. But what a game it was.
I recall that Big 12 Conference showdown in Norman, Purdy and company rallying Iowa State from a 42-21 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Heck, had it not been for a questionable non-call in the end zone on a two-point conversion pass to La’Michael Pettway, the Cyclones might have won. Instead it was a 42-41 loss in a game Cyclone fans won't soon forget. (More on that later).
I was in the press box, like I was at all Purdy’s 48 games as the Cyclones’ quarterback. And like Walters, I didn’t predict that the two quarterbacks in that classic contest would be opposite each other when the 49ers face Philadelphia in the 2023 NFC championship game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“That game epitomized Brock Purdy’s great career at Iowa State,” Walters told me this week. “You never felt you were out of a game when Brock Purdy was the quarterback.
“Even with Oklahoma leading 42-21 going into the fourth quarter, Brock led Iowa State to a 20-0 fourth quarter.”
This has been a great ride for Purdy, going from the final pick in the most recent NFL Draft to one win away from leading the San Francisco 49ers into the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Purdy is 7-0 as an NFL starter since replacing injured Jimmy Garoppolo, so keeping with that theme, here are seven thoughts about the last time Purdy faced Hurts.
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Brock Purdy was better than Jalen Hurts in that Nov. 9, 2019 game
Three of Purdy’s five touchdown passes came in that 20-point fourth quarter, a period in which he completed 5-of-9 passes for 90 yards and rushed seven times for 36 more.
When his team needed him most, Purdy was the best.
“He’s always looking downfield,” coach Matt Campbell said of his then-sophomore. “He’s always trying to extend plays. You’ve got the guy one-on-one, and he makes you miss. All of a sudden, it’s a critical throw, and he throws the ball on the money. Some people just have that, and he does. He’s going to get better and better.”
Purdy finished with 337 total yards and six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) and no interceptions in a heroic losing effort. Hurts had 341 yards and five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and an interception.
Epic? I’d say yes.
Campbell’s only decision was to roll the dice
“A hundred times out of 100,” he said without hesitation after the game. “Maybe more.”
It was the right call. Campbell called for a two-point-conversion attempt after Purdy’s 13-yard touchdown to Charlie Kolar pulled the Cyclones within a point with 24 seconds to play. Momentum was on Iowa State’s side.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Campbell said. “In. A. Heartbeat.”
Going for the win, when place-kicker Connor Assalley was 5-for-5 in PATs, showed just how much confidence Campbell had in Purdy.
“Offensively in the fourth quarter, we started clicking really well,” Purdy said after the game.
I recall Purdy taking the blame when that two-point play didn’t work
That’s Purdy. A team guy, the only fingers he pointed were at himself. And that's what he did on that November day in Norman.
He could have talked about all the interception opportunities the defense had against Hurts, but no, he second-guessed his late-game decision that ended up with Oklahoma’s Parnell Motley taking a pass off Pettway’s midsection to seal the Sooners’ victory.
Purdy didn’t know Kolar was open on the play until seeing a replay after the game. He was pressured. He was hit as he released. He had to trust his judgment.
“I understand Charlie ended up opening up, so that’s on me,” Purdy said afterward. “I have to anticipate that better.”
There was contact on that two-point conversion pass, but enough to call a game-deciding penalty?
There’s still talk about that play. Yes, there was contact on that play, and without that contact Pettway probably catches the pass and Iowa State wins.
My first paragraph after the game was:
Did Iowa State get jobbed by Big 12 Conference officials at Oklahoma Saturday? Frankly, it was too close to call.
“The two-point play can certainly be whatever,” Campbell said after the game. “The fact of the matter of it is, they didn’t call the penalty. Whether it was or it wasn’t a penalty, I think it’s probably up to discretion.”
A penalty would have meant a conversion re-try from the 1-yard line.
“Brock threw it to Pettway, really threw a strike. The ball had a chance to be caught,” Campbell went on. “Bang-bang deal.
“We could say, ‘Was he held, was he not? Was there interference?’ But you’ve got to make a play in a tough situation, and we really weren’t able to make that play.”
Would a pass interference penalty have led to Iowa State getting a win? We’ll never know.
“Yeah ... I’m not going to comment on that,” Purdy said after the game. “It happened the way it did.”
Oklahoma fans must have had somewhere to be. Many started leaving late in the third quarter.
Interesting they left early, considering what happened the previous time the Cyclones came to town in 2017. That was when Kyle Kempt replaced Jacob Park (who didn’t even make the trip). That’s when Kempt engineered one of Iowa State’s finest victories – a 38-31 success against the third-ranked Sooners.
"It's our job as coaches and players that we’ve got to play to our level, no matter what," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said after the 2019 classic. "That is certainly our job, and I would never put that on our fans or anybody else’s fans or any atmosphere or any stadium."
He closed this subject with this:
"Now, the flip side of that is we have one of the great stadiums in America, we have one of the great fan bases in America, and when it’s rocking in there, does our team feel that? Hell yeah they do. And when it’s not, do they feel that? Hell yeah they do.”
This game also was about Breece Hall
I recall telling someone after the game that Hall would be a star. Well, I think I recall saying that. Maybe I didn’t, but this certainly was one of the games en route to Breece becoming one of the Cyclones’ greatest rushers.
He ran for 132 yards against West Virginia and 183 against Texas Tech earlier that season, but could he do it on the road at Oklahoma?
Bingo. The freshman had 110 yards on 18 carries. He had 30 yards on six carries during the big fourth quarter.
He was Iowa State’s first running back with a 100-yard game against Oklahoma since Blaise Bryant in 1989.
That game included a ton of future NFL talent
Just among the starters, 18 have played in the NFL. That impressive list includes Iowa State’s Hall, Landen Akers, Kolar, Jake Hummel, Chase Allen, Enyi Uwazurike and Kene Nwangwu.
The list also includes Purdy and Hurts, of course. Who wins this time around?
Will a quarterback have to rally his team from a fourth-quarter, three-touchdown deficit?
Will the game be decided on a controversial pass into the end zone?
If it does, we’ll know it’s happened before.
Reach Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson at email@example.com, and on Twitter @RandyPete
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: 49ers' Brock Purdy, Eagles' Jalen Hurts faced off in epic college game