By Cael Sleezer
Iowa State running back Breece Hall celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Baylor on Nov. 7, 2020. No. 17 Iowa State beat Baylor 38-31.
Photo Courtesy of Iowa State Athletics/Russell Luna
On a Saturday evening in Ames, the next chapter of the Big 12 championship race took place as the Baylor Bears came into town to take on the 1st place Cyclones. Going into this matchup, Baylor led the all-time series 10-8, with Matt Campbell’s squad taking 2 of the last 3 games.
Iowa State was favored in this matchup by 14 points. With Baylor’s subpar run defense, Breece Hall would look to build on his NCAA-best 150.2 rush yards per game. Although Hall didn’t break 150 rushing yards in this game, he was still his dominant self. More on that later.
The Cyclones got off to a rough start. On their first drive, Brock Purdy threw a jump ball deep down the field that was intercepted by Kalon Barnes. Charlie Brewer and the Baylor offense started off strong with a 62 yard completion to Jared Atkinson and scored on a 9 yard reception by R.J. Sneed. Purdy and the Cyclone offense managed to get into the red zone, but unfortunately, Purdy threw the first red zone interception of his career, and his second one in as many possessions. Raleigh Texada would have scored if it weren’t for a good hustle play by Kene Nwangwu. Nwangwu only prolonged the inevitable, as Baylor scored on a 36 yard drive capped off by a Drake Dabney touchdown catch.
After a 3-and-out by the Cyclone offense, Brewer and the Bears were in a position to make it a three possession game. However, Tayvonn Kyle had other ideas as he grabbed an interception by the sideline to slow the Baylor momentum at the end of the first quarter.
The Cyclones started out the second quarter on a high note with a 14 yard touchdown run by Breece Hall, putting Matt Campbell’s squad within 1 possession of tying the game. However, on the next drive, Purdy threw an interception to Jalen Pitre that was taken to the house 30 yards later, marking Purdy’s third interception of the game.
The Cyclone offense would strike some good fortune with a big pass interference penalty by Mark Milton, which set up a 42 yard field goal by Connor Assalley. Baylor would then run out the clock and be poised to receive the second half kickoff with a 21-10 lead.
Brock Purdy finished the half with a 50 percent completion rate and a 25 percent interception rate. Although Breece Hall started off strong, the Baylor defense held him to minimal yardage toward the end of the half. Coach Campbell would need to make some big adjustments if he wanted his team to come back from a double digit deficit.
And that’s exactly what happened.
The Cyclone defense managed to force a punt after the first 3 plays of the half, but a drop by Greg Eisworth would move Charlie Brewer and his offense to the Iowa State 21. The defense only allowed two yards after that, and Coach Dave Aranda had to send out John Mayers to kick a 36 yard field goal.
With the Cyclones down 14 points, the offense needed to score in a big way to gain momentum. Kene Nwangwu shot down the middle of the field on the kick return and made his way to the Baylor 33 yard line. 2 plays later, Purdy would fire a 22 yard strike to Charlie Kolar in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
With Brock Purdy’s first touchdown of the night, he claimed the all time touchdown record at Iowa State, breaking his tie of 50 with Bret Mayers. The Jack Trice crowd erupted when the record announcement was made, and the Cyclones had life in the 3rd quarter.
After a good defensive stand by Mike Rose and company, Iowa State got the ball back at their own 20 yard line. In under three minutes, the offense marched down the field and tied the game. Hall had a nice catch and run for 21 yards, Purdy used his legs to get another 29 yards, and Hall capped off the drive with a 17 yard touchdown run with Purdy leading the way as the lead blocker (yes, you read that correctly).
After another uneventful Baylor drive, the Iowa State offense made its way down the field once again. Purdy converted a third down with a nice run, and Chase Allen got his first catch of the night in the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Cyclones lead 31-24. They outscored the Bears 21-3 in the quarter, with all 21 points being unanswered.
Iowa State continued their dominant defensive streak with a sack by Eyioma Uwazurike and a nice tackle by Greg Eisworth. When Baylor tried to punt, Landen Akers blocked the boot by Issac Power and set the Cyclones up at the Baylor 11 yard line. Breece Hall picked up his third touchdown of the night, but decided to change it up and catch a Purdy pass for 6 yards.
Baylor was in need of a touchdown to get back in the game, and they got one. Charlie Brewer fired a bullet to R.J. Sneed on a deep slant route, and Sneed managed to outrun the defense and tally a 58 yard touchdown, putting the Bears within 7.
The Baylor defense stepped up on their next drive, stopping the Cyclones around midfield. With a shade over 4 minutes left, 2 timeouts, and 85 yards to go, Charlie Brewer and his offense were in a good position to tie the game and potentially force overtime.
Brewer managed to string together some plays that got the Bears inside Iowa State territory. R.J. Sneed stepped up with a highlight-reel one handed catch on the Cyclone sideline to get the offense in the red zone with 1:31 left on the clock.
Two plays later, Brewer took a shot toward Sneed in the end zone, but Mike Rose snatched the ball out of the air to ice the game and complete the Cyclone comeback, 38-31.
Although Brock Purdy struggled immensely in the first half, he finished with 3 touchdown passes and 55 yards on the ground. Charlie Kolar had a decent day with a 3/45/1 slash line.
And then there’s Breece Hall, who puts up numbers that I can’t even put up in a video game.
He finished with 160 total yards and 3 total touchdowns (133 of those yards were on the ground in case you were wondering). Travis Etienne and Chuba Hubbard had 85 and 35 total yards respectively in their week 10 games (Hubbard was injured, but 160 is still greater than 35). If Breece Hall was somehow not in the conversation for the Doak Walker award before this game, he should be considered the frontrunner after his performance on Saturday.
Iowa State has many things to improve on if they want to remain on top of the Big 12 standings, but one stat that was nice to see in the box score was penalties. Iowa State had one penalty for five yards the entire game, and that penalty came in garbage time after the Mike Rose interception. The Cyclones have had trouble with penalties this season, but you have to be certain that Matt Campbell is pleased with that particular stat.
The Cyclones stand alone in first place with a 5-1 conference record. Their remaining games are against the 2nd, 5th, and 6th place teams in the Big 12 (Kansas State, Texas, and West Virginia respectively) with their next game at home on the 15th. The road will not be easy; it never is in this conference.