The No. 25 Oregon Ducks defense have another great challenge that lies ahead to close out this 2020-21 college football season.
The Pac-12 champs will next face Iowa State junior quarterback Brock Purdy and a dynamic Cyclones offense in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, January 2.
No. 10 Iowa State is coming off a 27-21 loss to the then-No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Oregon’s defense has faced solid quarterbacks each week throughout Pac-12 Conference play, but they haven’t seen anything like Brock Purdy yet.
The 6’1,” 212-pound mobile quarterback is a native of Gilbert, Arizona and has actually played against Chandler, Arizona-native Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough before in their high school days.
In fact, two of the four matchups were called, "two of the greatest high school games Arizona has ever seen," by Arizona Varsity writer Ralph Amsden: a pair of 65-63 and 63-60 thrillers.
Now, the two will meet up once again in their home state for a New Years six bowl.
On Tuesday ahead of the matchup, Oregon defensive players met with the media to discuss Purdy and this dynamic Cyclones offense.
“If I’m being honest, he seemed like the most athletic guy on film,” said sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibdoeaux. “He’s super smart, fast, he’s a quick thinker, he makes decisions really fast. So containing him is going to be a big part of the game as well other than stopping the run.”
Stopping the run and containing the quarterback is something that the Oregon defensive line did in their effort in the win over the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Oregon held the Trojans to just 38 total rushing yards, which included three sacks on quarterback Kedon Slovis for -27 yards. An equal if not greater effort will be needed against Purdy and the Cyclones offense.
“He’s a good quarterback,” said sophomore safety Verone McKinley III. “He makes some really good throw and is active with his feet. I just think if we do our job and stay good in coverage, I don’t think we should have any problems. But he’s a great quarterback, he’s done a good job in film, he’s been the starter for quite some time now so he’s done a good job.”
Purdy is second in the Big 12 Conference in total passing yards (2,594) behind Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler (2,784). As a team offense, the Cyclones average 441.1 total yards of offense per game: 249.1 passing and 192.0 rushing. They also average 32.8 points per game.
Purdy is surrounded by targets, including something that the Oregon defense isn’t used to facing in the Pac-12 Conference: an offensive scheme using multiple tight ends both as blockers and in the passing game.
“If you ask me, it’s because of their tight ends and their running back," said Thibodeaux.
Cyclones running back Breece Hall has 245 carries for 1,491 total yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns in 11 games this season. Purdy, the dual-threat quarterback that he is, has also rolled out of the pocket and has carried the ball 78 times for 436 yards and four touchdowns through 11 games this season.
Redshirt-junior tight end Charlie Kolar is second on the team in receiving yards (538) this season but the 6’6”, 257-pound tight end leads the team in receiving touchdowns with six. He averages 13.79 yards per reception.
For what head coach Mario Cristobal called the most physical team he has seen on tape in this tenure at Oregon, the Ducks defense will have a big challenge on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. (PT) at State Farm Stadium in Glendale Arizona.