The 50th rendition of the Fiesta Bowl, the premier annual college football even in Arizona, provided the first-ever meeting between 11th ranked Iowa State of the Big 12 and No. 25 Oregon from the PAC-12.
But while the programs weren’t familiar with one another, some of the players on each team knew their opponents all too well. It was a homecoming of sorts for several Oregon and Iowa State players who were once among the best at their position in high school football across the state.
Headlined by the matchup between Perry alum and Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy and Hamilton alum and Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough, the Cyclones capped off one of the best seasons in program history with a 34-17 win over the Ducks in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Saturday afternoon.
“Driving up to the stadium and seeing State Farm Stadium and walking out to the field, I felt like I was really home,” said Purdy, who was named Offensive Player of the Game. “I've had a bunch of ups and downs, some great games and some games where I had to learn from things. To be able to finish off a season like 2020 in this fashion, it was really everything to me.
“Being able to look back this is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Purdy and Shough matched on four occasions throughout their prep careers, most of which ended in a high-scoring affair. The two seemed well on their way to another classic battle between the two former prep stars, but a tale of two halves in which the defense for both teams diminished the offensive output in the second half.
Purdy finished 20-of-29 for 156 yards and a touchdown through the air. He also added 39 yards on the ground – most of which came as he escaped pressure from the Oregon defense – and a touchdown. Shough, meanwhile, was part of a two-quarterback tandem with Anthony Brown.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said at halftime of the Fiesta Bowl with the Ducks trailing both quarterbacks would rotate in. Even then, however, Shough was used sparingly. He finished the contest 7-of-9 for 79 yards. Brown finished 12-of-19 for 147 yards. He added two touchdowns on the ground.
“There was enough clarity to start Tyler, which is what we did,” Cristobal said. “I thought he had some good moments. When Anthony went in, he was doing well, so we went with him. That was the extent of the decision process.
“He developed a hot hand and we stuck with the hot hand.”
Both offenses started fast in the first quarter, with Purdy leading the Cyclones down the field on their first drive of 75 yards, which was capped off by a 1-yard rush by Hall. Oregon, led by Shough, answered. The former Hamilton star led the Ducks down the field but was replaced by Brown, who capped off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown.
On Iowa State’s ensuing drive, Purdy again led the Cyclones down the field, connecting with tight end Charlie Kolar for a 14-yard touchdown. After a 16-yard touchdown run by Brown for Oregon, Purdy and Hall both found the end zone to quickly build a two-score lead before the half.
Several miscues limited Oregon’s ability to put points on the board. A fumble by junior running back Travis Dye allowed Iowa State to capitalize on good field position and score. An Iowa State pooch kick was recovered by the Cyclones deep in Duck territory, which also led to a score.
In the second half, a muffed punt, a Brown fumble and interception by Shough helped seal the Cyclones’ victory. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said his team’s win over Oregon was as “complete” as they have played all season.
“I think each group had its moments throughout the football game,” Campbell said. “Offense got off to a great start in the first half. Our special teams came up with key turnovers. Defensively, we were elite in the second half of the game. I think that was about as complete as we played all season.”
Purdy and Shough met near midfield after the game. From eighth grade baseball, to offseason workouts and games against each other in high school, the two have grown close. They also represent the start of a recent influx of talent coming out of Arizona. Some of which joined them at their respective schools.
Former Chandler standout and Oregon wide receiver Johnny Johnson has made a significant impact in other trips back to Arizona while with Oregon. The senior caught four passes in the Fiesta Bowl for 41 yards. Former Saguaro standout tackle Jaylan Jeffers also made the trip with Oregon as a true freshman.
“Just the opportunity is such a blessing to come down here, play in front of your family,” Shough said. “The result is not what we wanted. Definitely hurts a lot."
Shough went on to reflect on the impact Johnson made on him from their days competing against one another in high school to now as teammates.
“He's probably had the greatest impact on me as far as anybody on this team because of our individual relationship and our work ethic together,” Shough said of Johnson. “He's taught me what it is to be a true pro. I'm extremely thankful to him and I know whatever decision he's going to make will be the best for him and I'm really proud of him.”
Along with Purdy, Arizona is represented by former Deer Valley star and Iowa State starting left tackle Joey Ramos. Alec Hathcock, who played linebacker for his father, Jeremy, at Desert Ridge, is the starting long snapper for Iowa State. D’Shayne James, who started at wideout for Perry alongside Purdy, is a freshman wideout for Iowa State.
Campbell highlighted Purdy’s accomplishments in three years as the starting quarterback at Iowa State. Whether or not it will be his last game remains to be seen, but Campbell credited the Gilbert native with the Cyclone’s success this season and in year’s past.
“Brock Purdy, in every game he’s played, has given us a chance to be successful.” Campbell said. “Without Brock Purdy there's no Fiesta Bowl, there's no Iowa State, we are who we are because of the leadership and the character and the humility of Brock Purdy.”