AMES — Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy saw the game lying on the ground Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
Running back Sheldon Croney fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line in triple-overtime. Northern Iowa had already scored on a field goal to take a 26-23 lead, so if Iowa State didn’t recover, it would lose.
Purdy dove head first on the ball and a scrum quickly formed, all trying to rip the ball away from Purdy.
“I saw who was underneath the pile, so I knew who would come out with it,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “That’s who that kid is. That’s exactly what I was thinking, when I saw him there, I knew we’d be in great shape.”
On the next play, Purdy handed it off to Croney again. This time, Croney fell forward into the end zone for a touchdown, and No. 21 Iowa State narrowly beat UNI 29-26.
“My heart dropped,” Croney said when he fumbled the ball. “But I saw my quarterback busting his butt to get over there. It’s the best feeling to see your quarterback go in there and dive head first. I don’t know a lot of quarterbacks that would do that, but that’s just the nature of Brock and his competitive spirit. That’s a great feeling, knowing the other 10 guys on the field have your back.”
Purdy had to come in all the way from Iowa State’s backfield to make the recovery.
“I was pretty far away, but I don’t know if the defense saw it,” Purdy said. “I probably had the best angle at it. It was pretty scary, I’m not going to lie.”
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Johnnie Lang and Breece Hall were the only two running backs to get carries in the first half. In the second half, Kene Nwangwu had four carries before he left with an injury. When Nwangwu went out, it was pretty much all Croney.
He rushed 13 times for 56 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“It’s nice for me knowing that the coaching staff trusts me in those critical situations, that my hard work is paying off and that my other teammates trust me in those situations,” Croney said.
While the game ended with Iowa State winning, the Cyclones made plenty of mistakes.
Purdy lost a fumble that was returned 53 yards by Xavior Williams for a touchdown, the offensive line committed two penalties that negated big plays — one of which was a holding call on what would have been a Purdy touchdown run — and Iowa State was unable to convert on third downs for much of the game. Iowa State converted just one of its first seven third-down opportunities. The Cyclones finished the game converting 7 of 18.
Did the lackluster offense, and game in general humble the Cyclones?
“It’s not humbling to me or our kids because I don’t think we’re anything we’re not,” Campbell said. “I don’t think you saw our kids blink, I think you saw them keep playing, I don’t think it was an attitude or effort issue. If it was an attitude and effort thing, then it would be greatly humbling.
“We’ve all been here, and nothing’s been easy for three years. The only people who think it’s going to be easy are outside of our walls because expectations occur. I don’t think it was very humbling for any of us because I don’t think any of our character changed throughout the football game. Obviously, some of the situations went for us and against us and we just had to handle it and we put ourselves in some of those situations. Hopefully we can continue to learn and grow, which is something I’ve felt our program has always done.”
While Iowa State made mistakes in key situations, the Cyclones outgained the Panthers 463-262. Iowa State’s defense only allowed 34 rushing yards.
Receiver Deshaunte Jones, who had 14 catches for 126 yards, hopes the Cyclones can use this experience throughout the season.
“We fought through the whole game,” Jones said. “We stayed calm and didn’t panic, not one time. That’s something we’re going to need to do throughout the season. We’re going to be in big games, close games, whatever it is. We just have to stay calm and collected.”
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