All eyes on the quarterbacks: Brewer and Purdy lead offensive efforts in Big 12 opener

Baylor senior defensive tackle Bravvion Roy charges ISU sophomore QB Brock Purdy as he attempts to make a pass during Saturday afternoon's Big 12 opener at McLane Stadium. The Bears took the 23-21 win on a field goal by redshirt freshman John Mayers. Kristen DeHaven | Multimedia Journalist

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor

The Big 12 is a conference of quarterbacks and going into Saturday’s matchup between Baylor and Iowa State, all eyes were on the Bears’ Charlie Brewer and the Cyclones’ Brock Purdy.

Ranked fifth and sixth respectively in conference passing efficiency, it could be said that both signal callers played in similar ways. But Brewer and Purdy had two completely different games in their Big 12 opener.

Purdy’s numbers looked formidable coming into the game, averaging 362 yards of total offense per game and breaking an Iowa State school record against Louisiana-Monroe last weekend with 510 yards of total offense (435 passing). What really made the Arizona sophomore stand out was that he was battle tested. Purdy started and completed all of the Cyclones’ games this season which included an overtime contest against Northern Iowa, a close rain-delayed loss to Iowa and that record-breaking win over ULM.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said his sophomore quarterback is the embodiment of “competitive greatness.”

“I mean, just the character of that guy,” Campbell said. “I like to use this word, competitive greatness, and competitive greatness is when your best is needed, your ability to give the world the best. That’s what Brock Purdy is, competitive greatness.”

On the Baylor side, Brewer had only played one complete game of the non-conference schedule. The Bears gave their backup QBs some playing time in the blowout wins against Stephen F. Austin and UTSA, so Brewer’s only full 60-minute start came in Houston last weekend. Even though the Bears came up with a win against Rice it wasn’t a pretty one, exposing a lot of the small things that the offense needed to improve upon.

The real significance of the game was that it served to prepare Baylor for Saturday’s match against the Cyclone’s and for the rest of the season, because according to Bears head coach Matt Rhule, every game going forward is going to be a four-quarter game.

“Every week is going to be like this,” Rhule said. “We’re not the type of team that’s just going to roll people right now. We have a lot of improving to do.”

Known to be a rushing threat, Brewer relied more heavily on his arm against ISU. The Austin junior opened Baylor’s first drive of the day with an explosive 46-yard pass to senior wide receiver Denzel Mims and followed with a 7-yard rush to put the Bears 19 yards away from the end zone. But a loss of 2 yards in a short pass to senior running back JaMycal Hasty and a dropped pass to Mims led to a missed field goal by redshirt freshman kicker John Mayers.

It wasn’t until the end of the second quarter that Brewer found his rhythm. After six incomplete passes Brewer finally connected with sophomore wide receiver Tyquan Thornton at the 50-yard line with an 18-yard pass. The Bears inched closer to the end zone little by little and then Brewer found Mims on a 7-yarder to finally put Baylor on the board.

Brewer and his team owned the third quarter as the junior led the Bears in a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, again connecting with Mims for 24 yards and then finding Thornton with a 35-yard pass in their next drive to put Baylor up 20-0 going into the final 15 minutes.

Purdy would have had a better first half if senior linebacker Clay Johnston and the rest of the Bears’ defensive line hadn’t been on him like gum on a sidewalk on a hot Texas day. Johnston sacked Purdy on the fourth play of the second quarter and then pressured the Cyclone QB into throwing the ball away, resulting in an interception by Baylor senior linebacker Jordan Williams.

The tide shifted in the fourth quarter as ISU responded to Baylor’s 20 unanswered points with 21 of their own. Purdy completed a 30-yard pass to junior tight end Chase Allen and then found sophomore running back Johnnie Lang on the right side of the field for a 3-yard rush into the end zone. The Cyclones were on the board.

After a pass interference penalty by the Bears, ISU was in position to score again as Purdy connected with Lang for 12 yards, cutting Baylor’s lead down to a TD minus the extra point. A 20-yard pass to sophomore tight end Charlie Kolar put the Cyclones ahead with 3:45 left in the game.

Baylor wasn’t giving up, however. Brewer and the Bears pushed toward ISU’s 38-yard line. On fourth-and-4 with 0:21 left, Mayers made up for his missed kick in the first quarter by scoring his first career field goal and retaking the lead for Baylor 23-21.

Iowa State had 20 seconds left to make a move but after completing a pass to Kolar for a first down, Purdy was sacked by senior defensive end James Lockhart, causing a fumble which was recovered by junior defensive tackle James Lynch.

The final stat lines for both quarterbacks can be compared very similarly. They both had 45 pass attempts with Purdy completing one more pass than Brewer at 27. Brewer had three passing TDs compared to Purdy’s two but had 35 less yards in passing than the ISU sophomore. Brewer still proved to be a more efficient rusher with 29 net rushing yards as opposed to Purdy’s 3 net rushing yards.

In the end, Campbell said was happy with the way his QB was able to adjust to Baylor’s defense in the fourth quarter.

“Quarterbacks, you’ve got to have the ability to adjust,” Campbell said. “Baylor did a couple different things in the first half. I think we had the ability to understand it, adjust […] give the credit to Brock, that’s still a young quarterback and his ability to do what he did I think shows how special he truly is.”

It can be said that Rhule shares the same sentiments about Brewer that Campbell has for Purdy. Having run two-minute drills in practice, Rhule said he was confident in Brewer to give the Bears a chance to win.

“To me, as long as we’re within scoring range in the fourth quarter I feel good about our quarterback. I feel like he has a chance to go make some plays and make something happen,” Rhule said.