Purdy leads No. 22 Iowa State vs. Baylor

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws a pass against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday.Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

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In the four games that Purdy has started, the Cyclones are averaging 36.3 points and nearly 450 yards of total offense. His 12 touchdown passes are already the school’s freshman record. The Cyclones have won all four of Purdy’s starts — two over ranked opponents (Oklahoma State, West Virginia).

“The thing that I’ve always really respected about Brock from the day we recruited him, is that he’s always trying to do something. He wasn’t trying to be somebody else. He wasn’t trying to be the next this or the next that. He’s just Brock,” coach Matt Campbell was quoted as saying in the Des Moines Register.

“He just goes about his business. He’s very matter-of-fact in how he goes about it and really doesn’t fall for all the other fluff stuff.”

After starting the season 1-3, Iowa State (5-3, 4-2 Big 12) finds itself on the brink of bowl-eligibility with four games left as it prepares for Saturday’s home game against Baylor (5-4, 3-3), which is also a win away from bowl eligibility.

Baylor going bowling would signify a fantastic turnaround from a 1-11 season in 2017. The Bears got closer last week, rallying behind quarterback Charlie Brewer, who entered the game late in the third quarter with his team trailing by 10 points.

He threw two touchdown passes, including a 6-yard game-winner to Denzel Mims with seven seconds remaining.

Baylor coach Matt Rhule did not sound interested in postseason possibilities on Monday.

“Iowa State is a tough place to play. I have never been there, but I have heard from the players and from talking to other people. I just think we need to be completely focused on Iowa State this weekend,” Rhule said.

“This defense we are going to face is either one or two in every defensive category.”

Iowa State is first in the Big 12 in scoring defense (21.3 points per game), total defense (324.4 yards per game) and rushing defense (104.9 yards per game).

It was the defense that got the job done last week against Kansas, holding the Jayhawks to three points and keeping them out of the end zone despite having a pair of chances from the Iowa State 1-yard line. This came two weeks after shutting down then-No. 6 West Virginia in a 30-14 win on Oct. 13.

Iowa State also held Texas Tech to fewer than 20 offensive points (the Red Raiders needed special teams and defensive TDs to put up 31).

“There’s been some defenses (we’ve faced) that are complicated like it, but they have this 3-3, 3-2 dime defense,” Rhule said.

“They’re pressuring, they move around and you can’t really see what they’re in. … These guys just do a great job of disguising. They’re able to do it because of the way their players play. They get off blocks and they’re able to survive inside in the run game by playing with less guys than most people would. It’s because their d-line is so talented.”

Iowa State’s top target on offense is 6-foot-6 wide receiver Hakeem Butler, who has 33 catches for 791 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the nation with 24.0 yards per catch. Two games ago, Baylor yielded 139 yards and two touchdowns on five catches to West Virginia’s 6-4 David Sills V.

Baylor isn’t strong enough in run defense to devote too much attention to Butler, so they’ll have to slow him down with some one-on-one coverage.

Iowa State can run the ball, too, with tough-to-bring-down David Montgomery. He has 712 yards through the eight games, one of which he missed with an injury. He is in great shape to become the first Iowa State running back with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Ennis Haywood in 2000-2001.

Baylor’s top weapon has been wide receiver Jalen Hurd, who caught seven passes for 96 yards and a TD against Oklahoma State and also had a team-high nine rushes.