Iowa State’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm on Saturday against Notre Dame

Then-sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy throws a pass during a 33-9 loss against Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.

Zane Douglas

The hope of three eight win seasons in a row were destroyed on Saturday for Iowa State with a 33-9 loss to Notre Dame in the Camping World Bowl.

The game was littered with mistakes for Iowa State, but the main problem for the Cyclones was their inability to push the ball on offense.

“Notre Dame, they played a great game,” said senior wide receiver Deshaunte Jones. “Hats off to them, they’re a great team.”

When Iowa State mounted some momentum on offense, it was consistently put to rest by a bad play call, a good defensive play by Notre Dame or poor execution. The Cyclones missed on two fourth down conversions of only one yard in the game.

The first half was ugly for the offense, but the Cyclones went into halftime down 20-6 with only three yards less than the Fighting Irish. The second half widened the margin between the two teams even though Notre Dame only scored 10 points in the half.

On the ground it was apparent that the Cyclones were outmatched as the Breece Hall-led backfield only accumulated 45 yards on the ground. Notre Dame had 208 rushing yards if its own.

Iowa State sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy had trouble with Notre Dame’s defense as well. The Fighting Irish employed a spy often, which gave Purdy trouble when he rolled out of the pocket.

“All season long I’ve been turning the ball over in critical moments,” Purdy said. “You saw it in the first drive, we’re moving and next thing you know I lose the ball.”

Purdy completed only 17 of his 30 passes to go along with his fumble and suffered a leg injury late in the game that ended his day early — determined to be a high ankle sprain in his left ankle. He added 222 yards passing as well.

Purdy didn’t have his best day, but some blame went to some curious play calling — especially in those fourth and short situations.

The first call was a shotgun hand off to Breece Hall who at that point had been the main source of offense for the Cyclones which was snuffed out behind the line.

The other call was a pass play that was blown up by a blitz from the Fighting Irish resulting in a sack.

Part of the issue for the Cyclones on offense was pass protection, which could stem from the loss of redshirt senior Julian Good-Jones.

Good-Jones was ruled out before the game — a decision in which coach Matt Campbell said was made a day prior to the game — which made the Cyclones turn to Colin Newell and Josh Knipfel for help. Knipfel slid over to left tackle and Newell, who had lost his job at center earlier in the year, played right guard in Knipfel’s place.

The result was a pressure-filled game for Purdy, but Campbell didn’t see it that way.

“I thought Josh Knipfel moving over to left tackle did an outstanding job,” Campbell said. “I don’t know what the statistics look like but, I thought we protected pretty well.

“I thought we did some really good things at times in the running game and again, you’re talking about playing an elite defensive front.”

There were some chunk plays for the Cyclones that showed encouraging signs for their offense early on, but they couldn’t keep that momentum up for the whole game or even through an entire drive.

Some of those chunk plays went to senior and Arkansas transfer La’Michael Pettway.

Pettway had a solid game — catching four balls for 54 yards — but what didn’t show up on the stat sheet was the degree if difficulty that a couple of his catches took.

For Pettway, it was a sour way to end the season despite spending only one year with Iowa State.

“We had great preparation, coach made a great game plan,” Pettway said. “We didn’t execute at times and it was critical at times and we didn’t come through.

“At the end of the day Iowa State beat Iowa State.”

Notre’s Dame’s defense played exceptional, but Iowa State was able to get those chunk plays — just not when it needed it most.

Iowa State ended the season about as bad as any team could with its ugliest two losses coming in its final regular season game against Kansas State and now its bowl game.

There were a lot of problems in Iowa State’s play on Saturday and fingers can be pointed at the offense for much of it.

“It hurts, it’s just a nasty feeling in the stomach,” Purdy said. “No one in the locker room is happy with what just happened.”