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Iowa State Holds On For Upset In Liberty Bowl

The Cyclone’s senior leaders made plays all day to seal the win.



Anyone who was hoping to see a shootout in the Liberty Bowl was no doubt surprised by what they saw in Memphis. A game that featured some swirling winds and defensive playmaking ended with the Iowa State Cyclones becoming victorious with their first bowl win in years.

The underdog Cyclones made their presence known with a score on the first drive of the game. Highlighted by quarterback Kyle Kempt and the passing game, Iowa State got six points when Kempt hit Hakeem Butler down the middle of the field for a 52 yard touchdown reception. That put Iowa State up 7-0.

Iowa State seemed to have captured some early momentum, but then disaster struck when Cyclone punter Colin Downing fumbled the long snap. That set up two big pass plays from Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, the second of which was a ten yard score.

The pass to wideout Anthony Miller tied the game at 7-7.

After stopping Memphis on a fourth down try, the Cyclones would later take the lead. Starting from their own 45 yard line, Iowa State engineered a six minute drive down to the two yard line. From there, the All American Joel Lanning powered the ball in on the quarterback keeper. Iowa State was up 14-7.

Memphis would manage to get on the board once more, however. Ferguson drove the offense down the field with just over a minute left in the half and got the Tigers to the Iowa State 17 yard line. That setup a Riley Patterson field goal that went through the uprights to cut the lead to four, 14-10.

Memphis came out in the second half and began to showcase their ability to score quickly. The Tigers managed to score in four plays as Riley drove the ball down the field and hit Phil Mayhue for a 36 yard touchdown pass. Memphis was then up 17-14.

After trading punts, Iowa State would respond. As he had all game, Kempt found Lazard and Butler repeatedly to drive the Cyclones down the field. On second down from the Memphis five yard line, Kempt threw a ball to the back of the end zone that was tipped into the hands of Lazard, who held on to it for the touchdown.

Memphis would get on the board again, however. Handing the ball off to running back Patrick Taylor Jr., the Tigers drove the ball inside the red zone. Memphis would have to settle for another Patterson field goal and found themselves down by one, 21-20.

The two teams traded punts once again, but then Iowa State would go back on the move. Taking over seven minutes off the clock, the Cylcones drove the ball down to the Memphis one yard line. On third and goal, David Montgomery took the handoff and fumbled just before the ball reached the goal line. Memphis recovered in the end zone, giving them the ball at their own 20 yard line.

After a controversial pass interference call on Iowa State’s Brian Peavy and a fourth down conversion, Memphis would turn the ball over on downs. The Tigers went for it on 4th and 10 from the Iowa State 40, but the Cyclones brought pressure and Ferguson sailed the ball over Mayhue’s head.

Getting the ball back with just under two minutes left, Iowa State ran the clock out to end the game. Cyclones win 21-20.


1st Downs 22 17
3rd Down Eff 7-17 3-12
4th Down Eff 2-3 1-3
Total Yards 346 339
Passing 314 286
Comp-Att 24-38 21-33
Yards Per Pass 8.3 8.7
Interceptions 0 0
Rushing 32 53
Rush Att 42 26
Yards Per Rush 0.8 2.0
Fumbles Lost 1 0
Penalties 3-20 5-34
Possession 37:49 22:11
ISU – K. Kempt 24/38 314 8.3 2 0
MEM– R. Ferguson 15/21 152 7.2 1 0
ISU – D. Montgomery 24 52 2.2 0 16
MEM – P. Taylor 17 68 4.0 0 22
ISU – A. Lazard 10 142 14.2 1 22
MEM – P. Mayhue 5 85 17.0 1 36


Allen Lazard had a great showing in his last game as a Cyclone. He had twice as many receptions as any receiver on the roster and he seemed to come up with clutch plays any time the offense needed them. With Montgomery struggling to find much on the ground all day, Iowa State was relatively one-dimensional on offense. Kempt had to largely rely on the receivers to make plays and the senior Lazard put in some serious work to grab balls that seemed to get caught in the stout Liberty Bowl wind.

Memphis had two near picks off of Kyle Kempt that could have easily changed the outcome. One was ruled incomplete when the defensive back failed to hold onto the ball as he went to the ground and the other was negated by a late hit penalty. Iowa State no doubt earned this victory, but for a Memphis defense that had been maligned all season, those kinds of “almosts” will probably haunt them after this game.

Iowa State’s defense was the story of this season and they were the story of this game. Those who hadn’t seen the Cyclones play in a while (or who hadn’t been paying attention) could have underestimated just how good that side of the ball has been all season. Jon Heacock’s unit brought it every game this season and this bowl game was no exception. The Cyclones held Memphis to 27 points under their season average. That’s impressive.

Memphis was largely able to get yards in between the 20s in this game, but they struggled to turn any of that yardage into points. The two touchdowns they did manage to get, in fact, were relatively quick scores. That kind of offensive inconsistency was one reason Iowa State ended up with a full quarter’s worth of time of possession – 15 minutes and 38 seconds – more than the Tigers.

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