AMES — Nov. 7, 2020. It was described as Brock Purdy's "rock-bottom" by Matt Campbell during fall camp heading into the 2021 season — the moment that Purdy and the Cyclones flipped the script and officially made their way to the Big 12 Championship.
The Cyclones welcomed the Baylor Bears to Jack Trice Stadium for the sixth conference game of the 2020 season. And the Bears showed up and caused some issues for Purdy and Iowa State out of the gate. Purdy's second pass of the game, and the Cyclones' third offensive play, was picked off by Baylor defensive back Kalon Barnes.
It would be the start of a not-so-good day for the veteran signal-caller for Iowa State. He would go on to throw three interceptions in the first half, making it the most in his historic career for the Cyclones.
Flash-forward to this Saturday, and the Cyclones get to face the same cast of characters in the Baylor secondary again, this time to start Big 12 play.
Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning spoke to reporters Wednesday to give his assessment of the back-line of the Baylor defense and how they have created issues for Iowa State in the past, and how to avoid those mishaps in Waco on Saturday.
“Obviously, they have a ton of experience and on top of that I think they’re good players,” Manning said. “No.1, I think they have the ability to be multiple with what they do and not only disguise coverages but run multiple coverages.”
All three of the defensive backs return for Baylor in 2021 and have picked up right where they left off in 2020. Raleigh Texada, Jalen Pitre, Kalon Barnes — the three who picked off Purdy a year ago — are seniors and are joined by another ball-hawk in JT Woods.
Woods, one of the many veteran safeties at Baylor's disposal, has already scored two touchdowns in the Bears' first three games — one pick-six vs. Texas State and a fumble scoop-and-score against Texas Southern.
In Iowa State's last two meetings with Baylor, Purdy has thrown four interceptions. Manning said Baylor puts their defenders in great positions to disguise themselves and always find themselves near the ball when they need to be.
“Certainly, we got our hands full," Manning said of the Baylor secondary Wednesday.
Purdy saw a similar defense to what Manning has watched in film leading up to Saturday, with the senior quarterback noticing how much speed Baylor plays with. How can he attack them this time around with that in mind?
It's about finding your spots and knowing where Purdy's receivers will be, but like Campbell said after the loss to Iowa, the other 10 guys on the field have to do their job to make sure those plays turn in Iowa State's favor and not in the hands of Baylor's defense.
Baylor likes to blitz in different packages, but at the same time, they'll use similar personnel alignments at times, so it's hard to tell when an extra rush on Purdy will come, but Manning said having a four-year starter like Purdy can make those challenges more manageable.
Purdy said come Saturday; he'll have to be sharp and precise in his decision-making to be successful. Like Manning, he sees physicality and speed across the board.
“They’re really well coached and they’re going to play hard for four quarters," Purdy said Tuesday.