Dec 19, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) runs for a first down Dec 19, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) celebrates a touchdown with quarterback Brock Purdy (15) in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma Sooners in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Brock Purdy stood less than 20 yards from the end zone.
One last chance with an historic win hanging in the balance.
Purdy — then a junior at Perry (Ariz.) High School and largely under the national recruiting radar — took the snap, shrugged off stress, and simply played football.
The now-Iowa State junior star quarterback swiftly traversed those 15 yards for a touchdown, capping a 63-60 Class 6A quarterfinal overtime triumph that simultaneously sent rival standout quarterback Tyler Shough and Hamilton High School to a deflating defeat.
“To be able to do that, for me, I was like, ‘All right, yeah. I can go up against anybody and compete against the best,’” Purdy said Tuesday during a Fiesta Bowl conference call with the media. “I knew I was gonna go get my dream and do whatever it takes from that point on so here we are and I’m thankful for it.”
Purdy and Shough — Oregon’s starting quarterback — will meet again at 3 p.m. on Jan. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., a mere 50 miles or so from where they dueled as high school foes.
“(He) and I are great friends,” Shough said during a later conference call. “(That 63-60 game) was a shootout. I had a bunch of fun. I know he had a lot of fun. It came down to who had the ball last.”
Purdy has thrown for 18 touchdowns and rushed for four this season for the No. 10 Cyclones (8-3).
Shough has thrown for 13 touchdowns and rushed for two for the No. 25 Ducks (4-2) in a COVID-19-shortened pre-bowl season that culminated in a 31-24 win over USC in the Pac-12 title game.
Purdy got the better of Shough each time they met in high school, but their relationship isn’t based solely on who won head-to-head matchups. They played club baseball together and work out together in the summer.
“We train together with coach (Dan) Manucci,” Purdy said. “I don’t know if we really talked about ever playing against each other or anything like that. We always knew it was going to be a possibility with bowl games and whatnot, but whenever we’re out there training together we’re trying to give each other tips and advice. We really do both hope the best for each other. We do compete when we’re on the same field, but at the end of the day we want the best for one another.”
Shough split time with Boston College transfer Anthony Brown in the Ducks’ win over the Trojans and leads an offense that scored 31 or more points in five of six games this season.
Oregon’s playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the third time. ISU — a 4.5-point favorite as of Tuesday afternoon — is set to compete in its first January bowl game ever.
“(This) is something you dream of as a kid,” said Cyclone tailback Breece Hall, the nation’s leading rusher and a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. “Just to be going there to play, going to Arizona and playing in the game is going to be really fun.”
Especially for Purdy, who will once again be able to showcase his skills for friends and family and the public at large less than an hour’s drive from his hometown of Gilbert.
He’s back on the big stage. ISU’s ascending it for the first time from a bowl prestige perspective.
“What a phenomenal opportunity for Iowa State football to play the University of Oregon and their great history and tradition, and, really, who they are and what they’re about,” Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell said. “Great challenge for us and certainly a great opportunity.”
Purdy tends to make the best of both situations. He’s ISU’s all-time winningest quarterbacks with 22 victories — but his prowess became evident back in high school, including in that 63-60 triumph that proved to him anything is possible as long as great preparation merges with unswerving belief.
“I remember for us it was really the furthest we’d ever been in the playoffs for our high school,” Purdy said. “When we did do that, I just remember celebrating with my team and just that feeling of, ‘Oh my gosh, all that work and everything has paid off.’ … It was cool.”
Sure, it’s simply a side story to this game. And of course, it has no bearing on what will happen. But yes, it is “cool” — and instructive. It helped Purdy become the player and person he is today.
“Brock is a young man that came in with all those intangibles that he had from Perry High School and really has led our program from day one,” Campbell said. “Brock’s a young man that is not only a great football player, but he’s an incredible human being and has has really made everybody in our program better from, really, the standard he set in every (aspect) of his life.”