Neither Brock Purdy nor Jalen Hurts has reached this stage in their football lives, but they have clashed in a memorable game before.
Hurts, a former star quarterback at both Alabama and Oklahoma, finds himself as one of five NFL MVP finalists entering Championship Sunday, where his Philadelphia Eagles will host Purdy's San Francisco 49ers.
The last time these two quarterbacks met, Hurts easily was the more prominent signal-caller, teaming up with current Cowboys star CeeDee Lamb to lead their ninth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners to an early lead over the unranked Iowa State Cyclones. Not to be outdone, Purdy and current Jets standout Breece Hall led a furious comeback attempt in Norman, erasing all but the last of Oklahoma's 21-point lead, falling in a 42-41 thriller in the 2019 season.
"Obviously two different teams, two different times," Hurts said Wednesday of their 2019 showdown. "I remember getting out early, had like five touchdowns in the first half, I think it was like 35-14 at halftime or something like that, and then they ended up coming back. ... It was a good game. I'm glad we won."
Back then, Purdy was still green, owning roughly one full season's worth of experience entering that meeting with Oklahoma. Hurts, meanwhile, was on his second school. It will be a similar story again Sunday, at least concerning Hurts, who arrives as a strong candidate to take home the NFL's most prestigious individual award as part of a team that owns the conference's top seed and looks as strong as ever.
However, unlike back in 2019, Purdy has made a prominent name for himself, too. The 2022 draft's Mr. Irrelevant landed in the starting lineup only because of injuries to other 49ers quarterbacks, yet all he's done is win. One more victory on his unblemished record would mean a Super Bowl appearance for perhaps the most unlikely of all quarterbacks.
Before dreaming of a shot at a Lombardi Trophy, Purdy and the 49ers must head the hostile confines of Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, where Eagles fans will be as wound up as possible with the belief they'll be preparing to send their birds to the Super Bowl.
"Yeah, it was a game," Purdy said of the shootout between the Sooners and Cyclones. "Obviously, there was a lot of points scored, it was almost like you had to score every single time you had the ball. Different situation and scenario than what we're about to go through on Sunday, but it was a fun college game.
"It was a great experience to go against Jalen and they had a great team, and he was making plays and I feel like we had to do the same to keep up and stay alive in that game as well, but this is a different situation, different scenario going into Sunday."
It is often said that in the Big 12, no one plays defense. While this might be disputable, it's impossible to believe the same will be said of Sunday's NFC Championship Game.
When both quarterbacks spoke of this contest as a "different situation" played in "different times," defense is precisely what they're talking about.
The NFL's top two defenses will take the field this weekend, presenting nearly equally difficult challenges for both Hurts and Purdy. San Francisco's top-ranked unit bottled up Dallas' offense last weekend, holding the Cowboys to 12 points in a seven-point win in the Divisional Round.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, surrendered just seven points to the New York Giants in their own Divisional Round triumph.
Both have reason to believe they will be the one to take down the other: San Francisco and Philadelphia each own top-five offenses, completing the pictures of two legitimate Super Bowl contenders with one game standing between them and a trip to the sport's biggest contest. They'll each exude confidence in their offenses, despite the challenge facing them, and as shown Wednesday, they're both respectful of each other. After all, they have enough experience to know they can both make plays when it matters most.
"I have a lot of respect for him," Hurts said of Purdy. "He's always been a really good player. He has a lot of moxie, he makes plays and he's been doing that since college so there's no surprise to him when he was given this opportunity to see the success he's having now."
Unlike their 2019 meeting, this time, it won't just be lip service. A gigantic test awaits both Hurts and Purdy in Philadelphia.