On Saturday afternoon, Iowa State and Baylor opened Big 12 play at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. There was plenty of gold (Baylor) and plenty of red (Iowa State) as both teams looked to grab their first conference victory of the season. Up to this point, both teams came in with some unknowns as Baylor had played an incredibly easy non-conference and Iowa State has dealt with inconsistencies. While there were some great tailgate battles outside of the stadium (thanks to DFW Cyclones and Sic’Em 365), the real action took place right by the Brazos River inside of the stadium.
The first half of this game had the feeling of two boxers easing their way into a fight. Some might also call this a mirror image of a Big Ten football game. Regardless, the first half was sloppy by both sides. Iowa State had seven offensive possessions that resulted in three punts, one turnover on downs, one interception and two missed field goals that included one blocked kick before the half was over. Iowa State was able to move the ball some and control the clock in the first half, but failed to capitalize due to mistakes, whether it was dropped passes or a bad decision by quarterback Brock Purdy.
Baylor’s first half wasn’t much better as they were able to just score once late in the second quarter thanks to a Charlie Brewer nine-yard touchdown pass to Denzel Mims. In fact, that would have never happened if it weren’t for Matt Rhule’s decision to go for it on fourth down just a few plays earlier after deciding not to let kicker John Mayers attempt a thirty-one-yard field goal. Although it was a sloppy start for both sides, Baylor went into the half leading 7-0.
The second half was a complete script flip as the Bears wasted no time feeling out the Iowa State defense. Quarterback Charlie Brewer led a fantastic 12-play drive that resulted in his second touchdown pass to Denzel Mims. After a failed extra point try, Baylor was up 13-0 over Iowa State with ten minutes left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded punts before Baylor struck pay dirt once again. This time, it was a thirty-five-yard pass to receiver Tyquan Thornton for the score to put the Bears up 20-0 late in the third quarter. At this point, everyone felt that this one was over.
But finally, the Iowa State offense found some life early in the fourth quarter. Brock Purdy made two big plays (one thirty-three-yard pass to Sean Shaw and one thirty-yard pass to Chase Allen) to set up the Cyclones in scoring position. Just one play later, running back Johnnie Lang crossed the goal line to cut the Baylor lead to thirteen early in the fourth quarter.
Maybe the shade cover helped but after a fourth down stop on defense, the momentum swung back to Iowa State because in just six plays, the Cyclones went right down the field to score when Brock Purdy hit a wide open Johnnie Lang to pull the Cyclones within six with 7:24 left to play.
Once again, the Iowa State defense held up as they forced Baylor to a quick three and out to get the football back with over six and half minutes left to go down by six. Somehow and some way, Brock Purdy pulled out some magic out of his hat (and thanks to two Baylor facemask penalties). Just like their previous touchdown drive, it took just six plays for the Cyclones to find the end zone as Brock Purdy hit tight end Charlie Kolar for a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Cyclones their first lead of the game with 3:45 left to play. This was also the first time Baylor had trailed all season long.
Now down for the first time in the entire game, Baylor had to go down the field to score and to their credit, Charlie Brewer had a hot connection with Tyquan Thornton on the drive to put Baylor within field goal range. With under thirty seconds left to play and down by one, Baylor trotted out field goal kicker John Mayers to attempt a thirty-eight-yard field goal. He drilled it right down the middle. The cherry on top for Mayers was that this was his first career made field goal. The Baylor defense would finish the job when lineman James Lockhart sacked Brock Purdy who fumbled as James Lynch came up with the football and the Bears won 23-21.
This was a Big 12 classic. While it looked like Baylor would cruise to an easy victory up 20-0, Iowa State woke up from the dead storming back to take the lead before Baylor would win it back. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said it best as his opening line in the media press conference: “Are you not entertained?!”, quoting the great Marcus Aurelius from the movie Gladiator. It was fitting considering the wild finish.
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