In a season that will go down as one of the most historic years in Iowa State football history, the Cyclones will make an appearance in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, the program's first New Year's Six Bowl game.
After falling just short of a comeback in the Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma on Dec 19, Iowa State will get to face the Pac-12 champion No.25 Oregon Ducks.
Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell, junior quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall all took time to speak with the media ahead of one of the biggest games in school history.
Unfamiliar teams, familiar quarterbacks
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl will feature two teams that have never played each other before with Iowa State and Oregon.
But just because the teams haven’t played each other before doesn’t mean there’s not already history between some of the players and the bowl game location.
“A young man (Brock Purdy) that had a tremendous high school career right in the state of Arizona at Perry High School, where he led his high school football team to a state championship his senior year,” Campbell said.
Glendale, Arizona, the location of the Fiesta Bowl, welcomes home two familiar faces with the two quarterbacks that will be dueling it out on Jan. 2 in Arizona.
Purdy, a Gilbert, Arizona, native and Oregon sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough, a Chandler, Arizona, native will return home to play in the Fiesta Bowl, but it won’t be the first time these two quarterbacks played against each other.
The Purdy-led Perry High School and the Shough-led Hamilton High School faced off four times before the two quarterbacks ascended to the college ranks.
Purdy came out on the winning end of those games, including a 65-63 shootout in 2017 that saw Purdy record seven touchdowns and over 350 passing yards.
“It was just an offensive shootout and Tyler was doing his thing,” Purdy said. “I just remember going out and really whoever had the ball last was going to win.
“[Tyler Shough] is a great competitor, they had a really good team and you know every time we played them, you just always knew both offenses were going to do really good and score a lot.”
Maintaining team chemistry
One thing that’s played into Iowa State’s team success is the team chemistry that’s been built over the years, whether it be from living arrangements to friendships with teammates.
One of the ways that chemistry is built up is by setting up living arrangements with fellow teammates, which in the case of the All-Big 12 First Team selections Purdy, Hall and linebacker Mike Rose, has been beneficial for that chemistry and even game preparations.
“We all like to chill, we like to hang out with one another,” Purdy said. “Really after games and stuff, it’s us three. We were talking about what happened and what we got to do from here on out.”
While some players have had multiple years to work on getting that team chemistry down, it’s also important for the team to also get on the same page with players that are new to the program, whether it be someone transferring from another school or a freshman on the team.
Such as the relationship built between Hall, JUCO receiver transfer Xavier Hutchinson and freshman quarterback Hunter Dekkers.
“Xavier? That’s one of my best friends,” Hall said. “Me, him and Hunter Dekkers probably go out to eat probably two or three times a week and just chop it up and just talk about life and everything like that.”
Fiesta Bowl reactions
With Iowa State making school history with the kind of season it's been having comes the opportunity to play in games that Iowa State has never been in before.
The Cyclones got their first ever crack at the Big 12 Championship with Iowa State’s first ever appearance in the Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“You take the lessons, you grow from those lessons and now you get two more weeks to prepare for another great opponent and another great opportunity and I think our kids will see it as that way,” Campbell said.
Now Iowa State has the opportunity to play in, not only one of the best bowl games in school history, but one of the more prestigious bowl games in college football: the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl is one of the New Year’s Six bowl games and has even been recently used in the College Football Playoffs, with Clemson and Ohio State squaring off in the Fiesta Bowl for a 2016 and 2019 College Football Playoff semifinal game.
The Cyclones now get a chance to take part in this bowl game with another program that’s been prominent in college football over the past few decades in the Oregon Ducks, who are coming off back-to-back Pac-12 championships.
“Really just to be playing in one of the most popular bowl games and to be playing against a really good time like Oregon, it’s something you dream of as a kid,” Hall said. “Just to be going there to play, going to Arizona and playing in the game is going to be really fun.”