AMES — Iowa State looked like a team leading the Big 12 Conference in the second half Saturday against Baylor.
The Cyclones scored 28 unanswered points in the second half and beat the Bears 38-31. Iowa State leads the Big 12 with a 5-1 conference record — Oklahoma State is also a one-loss conference team at 4-1. It’s the first time Iowa State has ever started its conference schedule 5-1.
Iowa State dug itself a hole in the first half due to three Brock Purdy interceptions — including a Jalen Pitre pick-6. Baylor scored touchdowns off the other interceptions as well.
And to begin the second half, Iowa State’s defense forced a three-and-out but punt returner Greg Eisworth muffed the punt to give Baylor excellent field position. The Bears were forced to settle for a field goal but led the Cyclones 24-10.
“When you have the caliber of players that we have, in terms of guys who have proven that they can do it at an elite level, then you don’t panic,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s one of those things that I really appreciate about who our team is. Some of the guys who made mistakes tonight are guys that you trust and know they’re going to come right back and you’re going to get their best. Obviously they proved it again tonight and that’s what’s special about life and special about our sport.
“You’re never defined when things are going great, you’re defined by what you do when things are really tough and really hard. I think those guys showed who they really are in some adverse situations tonight.”
Iowa State’s offense turned into a juggernaut during its first drive of the third quarter, thanks to excellent field position from a 67-yard Kene Nwangwu kick return.
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Running back Breece Hall rushed for over 100 yards for the seventh time this season. He finished with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He also caught two passes for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Purdy, who struggled mightily in the first half completing just six of his 11 pass attempts and throwing three interceptions, turned it around in the second half.
He completed nine of his 12 pass attempts in the second half for 108 yards and three touchdowns.
“At the quarterback position, you’re going to go through that kind of stuff,” Purdy said. “Nothing is ever going to be perfect or easy and I understand that. I understand that you play four quarters for a reason — it’s not all going to be determined in one quarter or one possession.
“For me, I was able to flush the first half and have a lot of poise. I think my teammates all believed in me and that gave me confidence to go out there and keep doing my job.”
Defensively, Iowa State was dominant in the second half and forced Baylor into four three-and-outs to begin the half. Baylor gained just 22 yards in the third quarter.
The defense was undoubtedly led by Mike Rose, who seems to only make big plays for the Cyclones.
The linebacker had the game-clinching interception in the end zone as Baylor was trying to tie the score with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
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“I’m more of a zoned-out guy on that type of coverage and I felt a post coming in behind me,” Rose said. “I was able to read the QB’s eyes and the ball came right to me when I felt the route behind me. Emotions after that kind of play, you can’t describe them. They’re indescribable but they feel real good, I’ll tell you that.”
On top of his third interception of the season, he also had a team-high 11 tackles as well as 1.5 tackles for loss and two QB hurries.
“I feel like I’m on repeat with Mike a little bit, and that’s a good thing,” Campbell said. “For me, what Mike Rose is doing is playing at such an elite level that he’s demanding that the country and the world look at him and say, ‘Man, this guy is one of the best defensive players in college football.’”
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