AMES — Brock Purdy’s success hasn’t been a flash in the pan.
Through five games, No. 16 Iowa State’s true freshman quarterback has completed 83 of his 121 attempts for 1,315 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s also Iowa State’s second leading rusher, running the ball 67 times for 252 yards.
As coaches got film on Purdy, his production was supposed to slow, but the opposite has happened. Purdy’s growth has outpaced what coaches are able to scheme.
Purdy played arguably his best game last week against Baylor, completing 18 of his 23 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown while running 12 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t put up gaudy numbers, but he was efficient. Purdy could’ve gotten two more touchdowns in the game, but receiver Josh Johnson was tackled at the 2-yard line on one of the opportunities and Matt Eaton had to dive at 5-yard line to make his catch. If Johnson doesn’t get tackled and Eaton was able to stay on his feet, that’s two more touchdowns.
“We have to make sure we get those touchdowns,” receiver Hakeem Butler said. “Otherwise they give (the ball) to the running backs to score the touchdowns and take them away from the receivers.”
Joking aside, Purdy has been lights out.
The NCAA leaders in passer rating with a minimum of 100 attempts are Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray at 219.9, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa at 207.7, Purdy at 192.0 and just below Purdy is West Virginia’s Will Grier at 180.7. Purdy is in the mix with three quarterbacks on top-10 teams — all of whom have been, or are, Heisman Trophy candidates this season.
Purdy’s total quarterback rating (QBR) numbers are borderline ridiculous, as well. The Gilbert, Ariz., native’s QBR is 85, fourth in the nation and just 0.3 behind Michigan’s Shae Patterson.
Purdy isn’t just completing short and easy passes, propping up his numbers. He has the highest completion percentage of any quarterback in the nation when attempting a pass 20 yards or longer (minimum of 20 attempts). Purdy is No. 1 at 70.4 percent, Tagovailoa is No. 2, nearly 10 percentage points lower at 61.1 percent. Every other quarterback in the top five is in the 50-percent range.
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Whatever stat you want to look at, it’s simple enough to see that Purdy is among the best in the nation. Which seems silly given the fact he was Iowa State’s third- or fourth-string quarterback coming into the season.
“I think the thing that allowed us to say that we’re ready to play him was how he practiced once Kyle (Kempt) went down,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “He took a lot of those No. 2 reps when Kyle was hurt and as any competitor, you want to be the guy.”
Purdy took those No. 2 reps and ran with them. Zeb Noland was named the starter with Kempt out, but against Oklahoma State, Purdy got his shot and capitalized. He threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Could Purdy have played earlier? Sure, but Campbell’s mantra is that he would rather play his guys too late than too early. He wants to make sure they’re ready for the moment and don’t get overwhelmed.
“When we put you in, I want to be sure that you’re ready to go,” Campbell said. “I thought the maturity of him preparing like the starter when he wasn’t the starter was really huge for a young 18-year-old to be able to do that and understand that. As we continue to watch him get better through the weeks, behind the scenes, I was really impressed with what he was doing and certainly how he continued to improve. I really felt like he had at least earned the right to go into that Oklahoma State game and play. To his credit, he continued to improve so much that he took advantage of that opportunity.”
Every Iowa State coach and player that talks about what makes Purdy so successful — and so different from every other true freshman quarterback — is his poise. Part of that is natural, and part of it was learned from Kempt, who has taken Purdy under his wing. He doesn’t let any moment get too big ... or too cold in the case of the Baylor game last week.
Could defenses eventually catch up to Purdy? Sure. Could injury slow him down? Absolutely. He plays a little recklessly sometimes, to the point where it scares Butler.
But what he’s done through five games for the Cyclones — all wins — is nothing short of amazing.
Things could go south for Iowa State and its quarterback, as they historically have.
Or, this is just the beginning for Purdy and the Cyclones.
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“We’ll only continue to see what his full potential can be,” Campbell said. “You’re talking about a young man that’s played five football games. That part is what’s really rewarding about coaching and rewarding about a young guy that’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s gotten so far.”
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