Cyclones win Liberty Bowl
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Iowa State proved its season-long bid to raise its standards was more than just a slogan.
Allen Lazard tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 catches and put Iowa State ahead with a remarkable 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter Saturday, and the Cyclones beat No. 19 Memphis 21-20 on the Tigers’ home field.
The victory gave Iowa State (8-5) its first bowl victory since a 2009 Insight Bowl triumph and marked the Cyclones’ third win over a Top 25 team this season. That’s the step forward Iowa State had in mind when it made “Raise The Standard” its team motto.
“The thing that finally resonates in our program is that this can happen, not only with our players but the people outside of our program, that success and winning football games at Ames, Iowa, can really happen,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.
Iowa State’s progress was evident in the way it held on to win after its only lost fumble of the season. Iowa State was attempting to become the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to go an entire season without losing a fumble.
The Cyclones led 21-20 and had third-and-goal from the 1 when David Montgomery fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. As replay officials reviewed the play, Campbell told his players he hoped the call wasn’t overturned because it would enable the Cyclones to show how they’d matured since a heartbreaking 20-19 loss to Kansas State in their regular-season finale.
“Coach was out there preaching to us in the defensive huddle this is what we wanted, to show people that we’d learned from what we’d been through,” Iowa State linebacker Joel Lanning said.
Memphis (10-3) drove to the Iowa State 40 but lost the ball when Riley Ferguson overthrew Phil Mayhue on fourth-and-10 with 1:52 remaining. Iowa State ran out the clock from there.
“It was kind of hard getting the ball out, but at the same time, I’ve got to find a way to make a play,” said Ferguson, who went 21 of 33 for 286 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked six times. “There on the last play, I’ve got to find a way to make that throw to Phil, no matter whether I have pressure on my face or not.”
Iowa State pulled ahead 21-17 with 4:28 left in the third quarter when Kyle Kempt’s pass appeared to get deflected just before Lazard caught it in the back of the end zone.
The touchdown came after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Genard Avery wiped out an interception by Memphis’ Curtis Akins and gave the Cyclones first-and-goal.
“I was just playing the play out,” Avery said. “I feel like it was a bad call.”
Lazard had 142 yards receiving in his final college game and was named the Liberty Bowl’s most valuable player. The only other players to catch 10 passes in a Liberty Bowl were Louisville’s Deion Branch in 2000 and Arkansas’ Bobby Joe Edmonds in 1984.
“I just went out there today and gave it my all,” Lazard said. “I kind of tweaked my ankle a little bit, but I only had a certain amount of time and I’d be damned if I (was going to) stand there and watch the offense go to work without me.”
Memphis had the benefit of playing a bowl game on its home field — where it hadn’t lost all season — although enough Iowa State fans traveled to the game to make the sellout crowd of 57,266 a pretty even split.
Lazard’s 10th touchdown catch of the season set an Iowa State record. Memphis’ Anthony Miller had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown to end the year with 96 catches for 1,462 yards, breaking his own school single-season records in both categories.
During a pregame event, Avery and Miller flipped an Iowa State helmet upside down. Avery told reporters afterward that he wanted to show that Memphis is his team’s city.
Lazard returned the favor Saturday by overturning a Memphis helmet that sat on a table while he collected awards as the Liberty Bowl’s MVP and offensive player of the game.
Iowa State: The Cyclones held the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense to its second-lowest point total of the season despite missing two key players, with defensive back Evrett Edwards ruled ineligible and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya suspended for a violation of team rules. Iowa State’s six sacks tied a Liberty Bowl record. Iowa State benefited from the absence of injured Memphis running back Darrell Henderson, who rushed for 1,154 yards this season.
Memphis: Missed opportunities haunted the Tigers. An ineligible receiver penalty nullified a first-quarter touchdown and led to a missed field-goal attempt. One Iowa State touchdown happened after a Memphis interception was overturned by replay, and the Cyclones’ go-ahead touchdown came after a Memphis interception was nullified by Avery’s roughing-the-passer penalty.
Iowa State will seek to go to back-to-back bowl games, something the Cyclones haven’t done since 2004-05. The Cyclones lose a lot of leadership as they attempt to replace a senior class that includes Lazard and linebacker Joel Lanning, among others.
Memphis must find a way to replace the dynamic tandem of Ferguson and Miller.
Iowa State begins its 2018 schedule by hosting South Dakota State on Sept. 1.
Memphis hosts Mercer on Sept. 1, 2018.
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