Brown Sees Different Challenge For WVU In Iowa State’s Brock Purdy
West Virginia faces another dual-threat quarterback on Saturday when Iowa State’s Brock Purdy brings the Cyclones to Morgantown. Asked for a key in defending the tricky ISU sophomore, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown noted that tackling would be important before stopping himself.
“Well, you have to tackle all the time or you will be in trouble,” he said with a laugh.
True enough, but since the Missouri game West Virginia has tackled well in most instances. There are always going to be a few misses, but by and large WVU defenders have done a good job of getting opposing ball carriers on the ground. Purdy, though, will bring a different challenge to some of the other quarterbacks the Mountaineers have seen so far.
“Purdy is faster than some of the other dual threat QBs we have played. He’s playing really good. I am super-impressed. He’s in the conversation to be the best QB we have played,” Brown said a of group that includes Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Missouri’s Kelly Bryant. “They are playing at an extremely high level, and their stats show that. Purdy is throwing it down the field. Early on, outside of the numbers (Oklahoma’s Jalen) Hurts is putting up, he’s in the discussion as one of the top offensive players in the league.”
Through five games, Purdy is completing 70.8 percent of his passes (121-171) for 1,578 yards and 10 scores against two interceptions. He has also rushed for 203 yards and five scores, including an outstanding 102 yards and two scores this past Saturday in a 49-24 win over TCU.
Although Purdy’s running ability mirrors that of several other quarterbacks that West Virginia has faced this year, Brown noted that there’s not a great deal of similarity in how he runs it as compared to those other QBs, or in how Iowa State schemes it. That, in addition to the need to dress the defense up to give the Cyclones different looks, means that there’s not a great deal that the Mountaineers can carry over from previous game plans.
“Four of the five games we’ve played, we’ve faced a guy who has the ability to run, but how (the Cyclones) run Purdy is different than how Texas runs Ehlinger,” explained Brown. “Missouri, they didn’t run Bryant much. We have to change [the defensive looks] up. We can’t go out and show the same thing we did against Texas.
“They will do a good job of putting Purdy in one-on-ones,” he said of the Cyclones’ tactics. We have to tackle him in one-on-one situations. He has a really strong lower body, and he’s fast. He’s broken a lot of tackles this year.”
Immediately following West Virginia’s 42-31 loss to Texas, Brown said he was not down on quarterback Austin Kendall despite his four interceptions, and noted that three of them were not on the transfer QB. Brown reserved the right to change that thought following video review, but on Monday afternoon, he stuck to the main line of his thought process.
“We had 50-plus pass plays called, and when you throw it that many times you put yourself in danger of some turnovers,” Brown analyzed. “He had some bad luck, and I didn’t give him a good play call on the one on third down, so that one was on me.”
Brown previously noted that two of the interceptions were passes that hit the hands of the receiver, and that on another a bad route was the culprit.
No matter where the blame lies, Brown believes Kendall will handle the fallout well.
“He threw for 360-plus yards, and he gave us a chance to win. He understands there are some mistakes he can’t make, and his mindset will be fine as we get back to practice.”
Brown said that Kendall missed last Sunday’s practice, but that he was at all others as the Mountaineers prepared for Texas. That was, according to The Athletic, due to treatment for a cut, originally suffered against Missouri, on his throwing hand that had become infected.
True to form, Kendall has not mentioned it as an issue, and continued to display the toughness he has all season.
“He missed practice on Sunday, but practiced the rest of the time. There are zero questions about his toughness,” Brown said strongly. “Look at the amount of hits he took in the first two games. He’s a tough guy and he came back.”
Brown was also pleased with the play of true freshman Tykee Smith, who moved down from a backup role at cat safety to start at spear in the place of JoVanni Stewart, whose status with the program is in doubt after missing the Texas game for personal reasons.
“Tykee has been playing,” said Brown, dispelling the notion that his appearance at spear was his first significant action of the season. “He played double digit snaps in every game but one. I love the way he plays. He prepares hard and plays hard. He lives for competition. He made some mistakes because he’s a freshman, but am excited about his future, both for the rest of this season and for the remaining three years.”