It’s been almost a full year that Brock Purdy has been Iowa State’s star quarterback. What can he do to continue the Cyclones’ October string of wins?
Randy Peterson, email@example.com
AMES, Ia. — This time last year is almost exactly when Brock Purdy became a thing — Iowa State’s rookie quarterback who would play so well at Oklahoma State on Oct. 6 last season that no one would even come close to budging him from the starting lineup.
He went on to lead the Cyclones to victories against West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas and Baylor. He was the unpredictable star that would quarterback his team to a second eight-win season in a row. He would continue Matt Campbell’s October streak of victories — and it actually started about a week before his breakout in Stillwater.
“That week in practice, what I would tell you — what sparked it for us — was that Brock was incredible,” Campbell said about the days leading up to last season’s game at TCU. “We do a 2-minute drill on Wednesday, good on good. Brock’s leading the team down the field, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this guy’s pretty good.’ He’s continuing to push us to say ‘Man, should we get this guy into the football game?'”
Campbell didn’t want to throw a rookie into what’s always an intense defensive game against TCU, especially in Fort Worth, but he had no choice after the first two drives at Oklahoma State went nowhere.
Now, fast forward to this Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against TCU at Jack Trice Stadium, in which the Cyclones hope to extend their October winning streak to eight with Purdy’s first crack against another fine TCU defense.
They beat Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech and TCU in 2017. Iowa State — and Purdy — were perfect in October 2018. The Sooners, by the way, were ranked No. 3, and the game was in Norman, Oklahoma. The upset of the fourth-ranked Horned Frog happened at Jack Trice Stadium.
It’s not as if the Cyclones have faced a diet of October cupcakes. Opponents have been everyone except Texas and Baylor. It’s the longest active October winning streak in the Big 12, if that interests you, but also know this:
Seven won’t reach eight without some cleanup — and no one knows that better than Purdy.
“The margin for error is small — it’s always been small here,” Purdy said Tuesday. “When Campbell first got here, they were beating teams not with large talent, but because they were paying attention to detail.
“They were taking care of the ball and not turning it over. I feel, if we can hammer down on those details right now, we can do things that have never been done before here.”
Like win eight October games in a row, which hasn’t happened at Iowa State — and, really, here’s how rare it is:
The Cyclones and Alabama are the only Power 5 schools with perfect Octobers since 2017.
Whether Iowa State’s string continues depends on a number of factors:
Where are the turnovers?
Iowa State (2-2) has gained just three — a fumble and two interceptions. The Big 12 leader is Kansas State, with eight. The worst is Kansas’ two.
Jon Heacock’s defensive players were responsible for a combined 36 the previous two seasons, but as it stands now, Iowa State might have trouble just reaching double-digits without a sudden ball-hawking mindset.
The Cyclones entered October 2018 with five takeaways. In 2017, it was six.
“We’re minus-4 in the turnover margin; that’s really hard,” Campbell said. “You’ve got to probably be pretty special to overcome minus-4 at this point in the turnover margin. We’ve got to figure out how, why and get back to understanding those value systems are still really important for us to have success.”
Purdy must be sharp
Everyone knows what Purdy has meant to Iowa State’s 2018 October bottom line while gaining the tag “Brock-tober.”
Three October games. Three Purdy-led October wins.
He must be every bit as good this October, considering the rushing game is still transitioning after losing David Montgomery. He even admitted feeling a bit of pressure to be that rushing threat — at least until someone emerges.
“I can feel it here and there, knowing that if the run game’s not there, that the defense is expecting a pass,” he said. “Honestly, we haven’t clicked that well, aside from the Louisiana-Monroe game.”
On third down
Iowa State has converted just 22 of 50 third-down opportunities. That’s an unacceptable 44 percent of the time, and that’s got to change if the Cyclones hope to realize their season goals — and extend the streak.
It has to start Saturday, although TCU opponents have converted just 18 of their 63 third-down chances.
“Last year, when we had third down, we were going to Hakeem (Butler) or handing off to David (Montgomery),” Purdy said. “This year, we understand that anybody can get the ball, but we have to be consistent, trust one another and not freak out when we get in third-and-long situations.”
That’s Purdy’s deal. He’s the leader of the offensive huddle. He’s the pulse of the offense. If there’s an advantage in his situation, it’s that TCU hasn’t yet played against him.
And for Iowa State, you must take advantage of every edge you can get.
Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.
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Source: Des Moines Register