Brock Purdy is supposed to be the next big thing.
After throwing for almost 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in his sophomore year, Purdy was getting a little preseason Heisman love, and his Iowa State team was considered one of the contenders in the Big 12. Matt Campbell had more than established himself as a rising star in the coaching ranks, and seemed committed to the Cylcones for the long haul, despite being linked to every major job opening the last two years.
2020 was supposed to be the breakthrough year, for both Purdy and Campbell, and thus, the year the Cyclones made a play toward becoming contenders.
Then, the Ragin Cajuns happened.
After being upset on their home turf by a very good Louisiana team, the Cyclones were forced to regroup ahead of their conference opener at TCU. An offense that was expected to be elite looked very average in the opener; Purdy threw for just 145 yards with a 45% completion rate, with no touchdowns and one INT. The running game was better — Breece Hall ran for over 100 yards with a score and Purdy himself picked up 35 on the ground. The receivers, normally a strength of ISU looked decidedly average — preseason all-conference tight end didn’t play and it showed, though he is expected to be back Saturday.
Defensively, the Cyclones gave up 31 points, weren’t terrible, but their special teams were. You might be surprised to learn that there is not a Special Teams coach on the ISU staff, and it showed Saturday — the Ragin Cajuns scored on a punt and kick return to put the game well out of reach of the stagnant Iowa State O.
The Horned Frogs have one distinct advantage: nobody has seen them on film in 2020.
Of course, that means that they have yet to play a football game, to get their first-year guys some in-game experience, to hit someone they don’t share a locker with. We have certainly see that matter early in this weird season, but we also know that GP is exceptional at preparation and detail, and this extra time will not have been wasted.
Player to Watch — Iowa State: Brock Purdy
Brock Purdy is the dude. He’s got to be the dude if the Cylcones want to make real noise in 2020. After a slow start, will the junior QB bounce back and remind people why he earned so much hype late last year?
Player to Watch — TCU: Max Duggan
A few weeks ago, we thought TCU’s sophomore QB might be done for the season — and maybe be forced to call it a career. But after a procedure to correct a congenital heart issue discovered thanks to COVID protocols, Duggan is not only back on the practice field, he’s cleared to play Saturday. Gary Patterson is being decidedly coy about who will play, but with backup Matthew Downing missing nearly two weeks of work thanks to COVID concerns, you can bet that if he’s healthy, Duggan will play.
I am giving an honorable mention to Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington as players to watch as well; after being relative unknowns at this time a year ago, the two safeties have garnered more offseason press and pub than any other players in purple. How will they handle it once the ball is snapped? We are about to find out. I, for one, am not worried.
Headset Head to Head:
Matt Campbell thoroughly out-coached Gary Patterson in this matchup a season ago, using a QB run game that caught the Horned Frogs’ defense off-guard and flat-footed. Will Patterson have something special up his sleeve for the rematch on his home field? This might be the best defense, on paper, that the 20 year + head coach has had, and there’s no reason for him not unleash some new wrinkles.
Another coaching conundrum falls on the Frogs, as we will see new/old play-caller Doug Meacham back in action for the first time in a long time. What will the new/old-look offense look like Saturday?
Iowa State looked back a week ago — worse than they ought to be but also worse than we expected. I don’t think we need to fully erase the hype train, but it’s certainly time to slow it down.
This isn’t supposed to be “the year” for TCU Football, but this looks like a game you have to win if the Big 12 Title Game is your goal.
TCU 24, Iowa State 17.