Nov 16, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver La’Michael Pettway (7) catches a pass in front of Texas Longhorns linebacker David Gbenda (33) at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Longhorns 23 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — La’Michael Pettway didn’t waste time.
The talented graduate transfer receiver from Arkansas knew early in his one and only season at Iowa State that he’d need to swiftly gain the trust of his quarterback, Brock Purdy.
And food provided the perfect bond-building backdrop.
“Going way back to when I first got here, I know he was one of the guys I need to win over, so as soon as he landed, got back in town, I asked him, ‘Hey, you want to go out to eat?’” said Pettway, who proved clutch for Purdy in Saturday’s 41-31 win over Kansas on Senior Day at Jack Trice Stadium.
Where did they go?
“Boulder Tap House,” Pettway said.
Wait … wasn’t it Buffalo Wind Wings?
“Oh, ok, yeah,” Pettway said. “B-Dubs, then.”
The site wasn’t important. The substance of the mouth-watering meeting was.
Pettway, despite being new to Ames and ISU, didn’t take long in joining senior receiver Deshaunte Jones as a leader in the room — and a top target for Purdy, who threw for four touchdowns, two to Pettway, in Saturday’s win.
“Ever since he’s gotten here our relationship has gotten stronger,” said Purdy, who also rushed for a touchdown and became the first Cyclone quarterback in program history to throw at least one TD pass in 11 straight games. “Throughout the whole season, when things aren’t going our way and stuff, he’s always been one of the first guys to tell me, ‘Hey, we’ve just got to keep chipping away.’ He’s been through a lot at Arkansas and to come here and bring that experience has been awesome for me. He calms me down and stuff between drives and he just tells me, ‘Hey, if you’re in trouble, I’m here for you’ — and he is.”
Case in point: Saturday.
Of Pettway’s six receptions, four came in critical third down situations. Two were vital plays that fueled ISU’s final two touchdown drives.
The first, a 21-yard catch, juke, and run, turned a third-and-three situation into first and goal at the Kansas four-yard line. Purdy eventually scored on a five-yard run to put the Cyclones ahead for good, 34-31, with 5:10 left.
The second — after cornerback Anthony Johnson forced a turnover on downs from the Jayhawks by batting down a fourth-down pass — came on third and eight at the KU 35-yard line.
Pettway took Purdy’s pass 25 yards to the Jayhawks’ 10 — and Purdy connected with Sean Shaw on fourth and goal for the touchdown that fully sealed the win.
“I had a feeling about Pett today that he was going to be special,” said ISU head coach Matt Campbell, whose team improved to 7-4 overall and 5-3 in Big 12 play. “You know what I love about La’Michael — and I know I’ve talked a lot about him, you know, that guy came in here without spring practice. And probably saying it kindly, is he didn’t have a great start to fall camp, ok? But his ability to keep working and trusting and believing and just keep pounding away and honestly, as we’ve gone out to practice here the last three weeks, you know who the best guy (has been)? La’Michael Pettway. And you know who in the critical moments, who’s been the best for us? Last week and this week? La’Michael Pettway.”
The 6-2, 223-pound senior totaled six catches for 96 yards and pushed his season total for touchdowns to six.
HIs fellow senior, Jones, caught a team-best seven passes for 74 yards before leaving the game with an apparent shoulder injury early in the fourth quarter.
“I think he’ll be OK,” Campbell said of Jones, adding he’ll know more early next week.
Pettway’s been more than OK for Purdy and the offense in general. And it wasn’t just dinner invitations that helped the team warm to him.
“He’s truly a good teammate and I think that’s the most impressive thing about him,” said sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar, who notched the first 100-yard receiving yard game of his career. “I feel like I’ve know Pett a lot longer than six months or however long it’s been,” Kolar said. “But from the first couple weeks he got here, he was trying to get extra work in and it really shows. He’s got strong hands, he runs good routes and when we needed him he made a play, so I’m really grateful we got Pett and I think everyone else is, too.”
Especially Purdy, who was happy to join him for dinner months ago and begin forging what is now a strong friendship.
But a key question remains: Who picked up the tab?
“You know I had to,” Pettway said. “You know I had to pick up the tab. That’s my guy. That’s my guy. That was a part of winning him over.”
Breece Hall scored his eighth rushing touchdown of the season, a new freshman record. He also caught a touchdown pass from Purdy. … Jones now has 70 catches this season, which ranks third-best in school history. His 178 career receptions is second only to Allen Lazard. … Defensive end Will McDonald notched two sacks today to push his season total to four. … ISU scored 30-plus points in its fifth game in conference play, which ties a school record.