NORMAN, Okla. — When the time came for Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell to make a decision on whether to go for the win or overtime, it didn’t take very long to come to a conclusion. In fact, there was really only one option.
After erasing a three-touchdown deficit to get within one point of No. 9 Oklahoma, the calculus on whether to go for a two-point conversion or kick the extra point had to be done. So what actually made Campbell feel so confident about sending his offense back onto the field?
“When I see Brock Purdy just keep making unbelievable plays,” Campbell said. “I’d rather put the game in his hands.”
As good as Purdy was in his first game against the Sooners, his team fell one point short when his conversion pass was intercepted in the end zone to give Oklahoma a 42-41 win. It was a sour taste for Purdy to end the night on, but it didn’t shake the confidence of his head coach.
“I’d do it again,” Campbell said, “in a heartbeat.”
The way Purdy played, and with ISU playing in a stadium in which the home team has lost only once in the past three seasons, a 2-point try was warranted. The sophomore quarterback was 19 of 30 passing for 282 yards and 5 touchdowns, rushing for 55 yards and another score.
Purdy threw five touchdowns to five different receivers — including all three tight ends — but it’s the last play that ate at him. He saw it develop, but was forced to make a quick decision because of the pressure Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1) brought off the edge.
“We were expecting man coverage, that’s what we got,” Purdy said. “I was just trying to go through my progressions and I just felt a guy coming sort of in my face and I was just trying to get the ball out to (La’Michael) Pettway as fast as I could. I understand that Charlie (Kolar) ended up opening up, so that’s on me again. I’ve got to anticipate that better.”
ISU (5-4, 3-3) ran a simple play design that featured whip routes from Pettway and Kolar. Kolar went across the middle and was wide open, while Pettway went deeper and toward the sideline with two OU defenders in tow.
Purdy saw the pressure coming to his right, and quickly fired a throw into double coverage toward Pettway, who was draped by Parnell Motley — ISU wasn’t looking for a flag, Campbell said — who corralled the ball after it ricocheted off Pettway’s hands to stymie the try.
As a dejected Kolar, a native of Norman, sat underneath the stadium of the team he grew up rooting for, he took a few pauses to collect himself. He had nothing but admiration and trust for Purdy and his decision-making.
“The character that kid has, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my entire life and I’ve played with some fantastic athletes — I’ve played with guys in the NBA and NFL here or there — I’ve never seen a kid like that that just fights more than anything,” Kolar said. “I have no idea what Brock saw. I trust Brock made the best decision for the team and we’ll move on. I would go to war with that kid any day of the week.”
After an impassioned locker room speech and media obligations, Campbell stopped Purdy in a narrow hallway underneath the stadium for several minutes. The two exchanged a few words before a hug and departure. It was an understanding that better days are ahead.
“I trust him,” Campbell said. “I believe in him.”