AMES — Things began about as bad as they could’ve for Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy on Saturday.
The junior was just 4-of-10 to begin the game against Baylor with three interceptions.
At halftime, he reset his mind and played how Iowa State fans had grown accustomed to seeing him play. He got messages from former Iowa State quarterback and current graduate assistant Kyle Kempt and Coach Matt Campbell.
“I just told him, ‘I don’t bet a whole lot but if I was betting, man, things were not going our way, but at some point, they were probably going to go our way. Don’t panic, we’re fine,’ ” Campbell said. “The reality is, I thought he did a great job of keeping his composure. We’ll go back and look at the film and determine if they were Brock’s mistakes, were they a wrong route or was it a leakage in protection?
“But when you’re the quarterback, it’s not easy and you better be a tough hombre and he’s about as tough as I know and as special of a competitor as I’ve ever been around.”
After the 4-for-10 start, he went 11 of 14 and threw three touchdowns to lead No. 17 Iowa State to a 38-31 win over Baylor.
The first of his touchdowns was his 51st career passing touchdown, which broke the Iowa State record.
“It’s pretty fitting,” Campbell said. “Brock’s had to come up the rough side of the mountain his entire career. And a night like tonight wasn’t the easy side of the mountain. It was the rough side of the mountain. And Brock, instead of slipping and falling, kept climbing. I think it’s pretty poetic that on a night like tonight where things didn’t maybe start out the best, he kept climbing and persevering.”
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Campbell has talked a lot about wanting his team to develop a killer instinct in the past two weeks.
On Tuesday, he didn’t want to name names quite yet — he wanted to wait until the end of the season because having a killer instinct is something that needs to be a season-long thing.
But Campbell made an exception after linebacker Mike Rose put together another incredible game. The junior had 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries. And oh by the way, he also had the game-clinching interception in the end zone.
Campbell was asked if the interception defined the killer instinct he was looking for.
“I think everything Mike Rose does is killer instinct, to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “He’s a young man that has displayed elite traits and elite qualities in everything he does. I wish I could bring you into practice Tuesday and Wednesday because that same playing mentality and work ethic is really what he brings in terms of how he practices every day.
“(It’s) very similar in a lot of ways to what David Montgomery brought to the offense as he really changed this program. In a lot of ways, Mike resembles that for the defense.”
Dynamic special teams
Iowa State special teams made two game-changing plays when the Cyclones needed them the most.
Kene Nwangwu had a 67-yard kick return after Baylor kicked a field goal to increase its lead to 24-10. The offense was able to capitalize on the excellent field position with a touchdown.
“For Kene, how many times have I said this now? Three, right? That kickoff return was really the momentum changer in the game,” Campbell said. “Kene’s had that with a run, a kick return and then now he did it again with an elite kick return.”
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To begin the fourth quarter, Landen Akers blocked a punt. It was something that he said was his goal since he came to Iowa State. Not only did Akers block the punt, he recovered it at the 11-yard line, again setting up Iowa State’s offense with incredible field position. The ensuing touchdown made it 38-24.
“These are guys who are refusing to lose,” Campbell said. “And in the heat of the moment — the most critical moments — you need your seniors. And if you want to have a great team, again, I don’t care what sport it is, your seniors have to play their best football their senior year. That’s one of the things that this team is getting. Today, obviously Kene and Landen made two huge plays and we’re really proud of those guys.”