NFC Championship: Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, 49ers’ Brock Purdy set for rematch of their 2019 college football classic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy could be primed for a shootout in the NFC Championship game.

It’s the first time Hurts — the Philadelphia Eagles league MVP finalist — and Purdy, the “Mr. Irrelevant” rookie sensation for the San Francisco 49ers, where NFL clash. And it’s a sucker with a Super Bowl seat at stake.

But the two young quarterbacks have faced each other before, in a game that was among the best of the 2019 college football season. Hurts passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more points for Oklahoma, and Purdy passed for five touchdowns for Iowa State. Hurts’ No. 9 Sooners prevailed 42-41 on November 9, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma.

“It was almost like you had to score every time you had the ball,” Purdy recalled this week.

His time with the Cyclones had a history that was pretty much emulated in San Francisco.

As a freshman in 2018, Purdy played so well and so quickly that reigning sophomore Zeb Noland decided to play elsewhere just a month into the season. Purdy took over in the fifth game of the season, leading the Cyclones to a 7-2 record and a trip to the Alamo Bowl. He became the first true freshman quarterback to start a game for Iowa State since 1995 and finished the bowl game with a team bowl record 315 yards, held against Washington State.

Eagles defensive end Matt Leo, on the team’s practice squad, played three seasons with Purdy at Iowa State.

“I remember when he was straight out of high school, he was already training before the semester even started,” Leo said. “When I saw that competitive nature in him, I knew what kind of tone he was going to bring to the team. And he did.”

Fast forward to 2022 when Purdy was the last player to be drafted but was drafted into the 49ers’ roster as the third QB and unlikely to take over after Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were both injured. Purdy is now the third rookie quarterback of all time to win two NFL playoff starts, the fifth to reach the conference title game as a starter, and is expected to be the first to reach the Super Bowl.

For all his success, it’s still easy to think of the game against Hurts that eluded him.

Purdy led the Cyclones back from a 42-21 hole in the second half, pulling them inside a hole when he found Charlie Kolar for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the last minute. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell sought a win that would boost his chances in the Big 12 title game and claimed a two-point conversion. Gambling has failed. Parnell Motley intercepted Purdy’s two-point conversion pass with 24 seconds left.

Hurts passed 273 yards and ran 68 yards. Purdy rushed for 282 yards and rushed 55 yards.

“Yeah, I thought it was a completion,” Purdy said. “Obviously not getting the degree and it was game over sucked. That was it.”

Until they meet again.

Leo said the 23-year-old’s performances in big NFL games made it hard for him to believe Purdy was the ninth QB in the draft: “He showed everyone he was ‘Mr. Relevant’ is,” he said, laughing. “I’m so happy for him and an old teammate. I’m still cheering for him. But this week no.”

The 24-year-old Hurts had his own difficulties in three seasons at Alabama, including being benched at halftime in the 2018 national championship game. Hurts used his final year of eligibility to transfer to Oklahoma and finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Hurts said he remembered how impressive Purdy was in that 2019 game.

“I have a lot of respect for (Purdy). He’s always been a really good player,” Hurts said. “He has a lot of moxie, he does plays and he’s been doing it since college, so it’s no surprise when he got this opportunity to see the success he’s having now.”

The game also gave Purdy a taste of what it was like to play on the street in front of 83,541 fans.

Since then, Purdy has faced a rowdy crowd in a playoff win in Seattle — but few atmospheres can match the Philly scuffle. That night in Norman drew near.

“I think that was just a great experience for me to go back to and remember how I felt, what went through my mind and how it affected my decisions,” Purdy said.

On Sunday, he hopes it’s the kind of performance that leads to a Super Bowl.


AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow from Santa Clara, California contributed to this report.

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