Before Brock Purdy became Mr. Irrelevant.
Before Jalen Hurts became an MVP nominee.
Before these two young quarterbacks ever dreamed of meeting in an NFC championship game.
They were two passers-by of the Big 12 who met in Norman, Oklahoma on a Saturday night.
The date was November 9, 2019. The Oklahoma Sooners were the ninth-seeded team in the nation, led by Hurts, the transfer from Alabama. However, Oklahoma suffered a loss to Kansas State in the previous game, a loss that knocked them out of the top five in the rankings.
On the other side of the field? A team from the state of Iowa with Purdy at the helm. Purdy, then a sophomore, entered his freshman season for the Cyclones as a third-string quarterback but took over the starting role earlier in the year. 2019 was his first full season under center for Iowa State. But the Cyclones went into the game with a 5-3 record that included losses to Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
For a time, it looked like the Sooners would pull off a win.
Oklahoma led 14-7 after the first quarter and led 35-14 at the break. Along the way, you saw elements from the Hurts and the Sooners offense that would be repeated years later in Philadelphia. Plays like this run design on the goal line, with hurts as a vertical stretch on a centerline read/outside zone concept:
Hurts’ eight-yard touchdown gave the Sooners a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter.
As of this season, Hurts is running with a similar design against the Arizona Cardinals:
As the first half progressed and the Sooners built their lead, you saw some more quarterback run concepts, like this late first-half power design. Oklahoma pulls both guards, and the running back also brings hurts to the edge:
Finally, here’s Hurt’s goal against the New York Giants this season, week 14:
However, Iowa State’s comeback began in the second half. Purdy threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone as the Cyclones slowly slipped past the Oklahoma lead.
A critical game during their comeback effort? An interception thrown by Hurts just under three minutes from time. With the Sooners now holding onto a 42-35 lead, they faced a 3rd and 7th place finish at their own 28-yard line. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley put the ball in his quarterback’s hands.
Hurts opens on the left side of the field but with his options covered he rolls out of the pocket to buy some time. He forces a late throw down, which is intercepted:
Iowa State took the 35-yard line from Oklahoma and was 2:30 down in the game by seven. That was more than enough time for Purdy to throw his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this time against Charlie Kolar from 13 yards:
We will see. A well-placed throw to a tight end that works against an outside pressure defender. Where have we seen this before?
The touchdown cut Oklahoma’s lead to 42-41, and with just 24 seconds to go, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell was faced with a decision. Does he send his kicker onto the field to level the game and set up overtime on the street?
Or is he going to win?
Campbell sent his quarterback back onto the field.
But Purdy’s final throw of the night would be intercepted:
After the game, Campbell spoke of putting the football in his quarterback’s hands to potentially secure a win: “When I see Brock Purdy making incredible game after game, I’d rather put the game in his hands because I trust him.” Campell said. “Yes, the question of whether I would do it again. Yes, in a heartbeat.”
Purdy’s last sentence that night? The QB completed 19 of 30 passes for 282 yards and 5 touchdowns, with the only interceptions coming on two-point conversion tries. He added another 55 rushing yards and one touchdown on 18 tries.
As for hurts, the Oklahoma quarterback completed 18 of 26 passes for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with his interception. Hurts rushed for another 68 yards and scored two points on 22 carries.
Fast forward a few years and these two quarterbacks meet again with a trip to Super Bowl LVII on the line.
Will there be another one-point game between these passers this Sunday?
Only time can tell.