Iowa State looks to finish in style at Liberty Bowl

MEMPHIS (AP) – The Memphis Tigers have a rare luxury chasing program history with all the comforts of home Friday against Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.

The Cyclones (7-5) will work from Memphis’ usual sideline, pushing the Tigers to the visitors’ side. Memphis will get to use its own locker room.

At stake for Memphis (9-3) is posting just the fifth season in program history with at least 10 victories and fourth since 2014. The Tigers also can get some payback for 2017 when they lost this bowl to Iowa State by a single point despite being ranked.

Coach Ryan Silverfield said Thursday his Tigers understand both the history of this bowl, sponsored by AutoZone, and what it means to Memphis.

“National television and then also the opportunity to go down in history as one of the top five winningest teams in program history,” Silverfield said. “Those are huge things that are at stake, and our guys will certainly come out swinging.”

That 2017 Liberty Bowl is the only game Iowa State has won in the state of Tennessee in six tries.

This marks Iowa State ‘s sixth bowl with coach Matt Campbell and possibly the most impressive after five projected starters were sidelined by an investigation into illegal gambling. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers was among three Cyclones who pleaded guilty to underage gambling.

Campbell called what happened to his Cyclones this season “nothing short of incredible.”

“The guys that have stood up and played meaningful snaps and the stories that I think will come out of this season … and the ability to be ready for when their number was called,” Campbell said. “I just think that that to me has been what’s been remarkable about this season.”


Rocco Becht replaced Dekkers at quarterback, and he made his own splash as the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Becht set a handful of school freshmen records including marks of 20 touchdown passes and 2,674 yards that had been set by Brock Purdy, now in the NFL with San Francisco.

It certainly helps that Becht has good protection. Iowa State allowed only 12 sacks this season for an average of one per game. That tied for eighth in the country and second in the Big 12 for fewest allowed.

Memphis counters with Seth Henigan who has lots of experience even if he is the third-youngest quarterback in all of FBS at the age of 20 this season. He has 17 300-yard passing games and the program record with five 400-yard passing games.

He ranks 10th nationally averaging 293.2 yards per game and ninth with 313.8 yards of total offense.


Iowa State ranked fifth nationally picking off 16 passes led by All-Big 12 defensive backs Jeremiah Cooper who led the Cyclones with five. Senior T.J. Tampa added two. The Cyclones also recovered three fumbles and tied for 18th in the country with a plus-8 turnover differential.

Memphis has its own knack for forcing turnovers. The Tigers have a takeaway in 24 of 30 games, totaling 54 in that span.


Memphis scores an average of 39.7 points a game to rank seventh nationally. With Henigan, the Tigers ranked 13th averaging 301.7 yards passing and 19th putting up 452.5 yards per game in the high-scoring American Athletic Conference.


Iowa State running back Abu Sama III will have a hard time improving on the first start of his career. He helped the Cyclones wrap up the regular season upsetting then-No. 19 Kansas State 42-35 in a snowstorm by running 71 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play.

Sama added a 77-yard TD run in the second and a 60-yarder in the third. He finished with 276 yards rushing for the program’s most yards rushing on the road and most ever by an Iowa State freshman.

Memphis ranked 96th nationally, giving up 168.2 yards rushing a game.