Iowa State was able to hold Memphis in check in a 21-20 win in the Liberty Bowl. Here are five things that matter.
2017 Liberty Bowl: Iowa State 21, Memphis 20
5. The Iowa State pass rush worked
How do you stop the high-powered Memphis offense? You get into the backfield and make the Tiger playmakers uncomfortable.
Iowa State came up with six sacks and ten tackles for loss, pressuring Riley Ferguson into an okay, but not great day, and keeping the normally-great Tiger ground game to just 53 yards on 26 carries. Iowa State was able to – once again – take one of the nation’s top offenses and slow it down to a crawl. But …
4. Memphis did a nice job of holding tough
It stinks for the Tigers that they couldn’t come through with a good win for the American Athletic, and it’s not okay to lose a home bowl game, but they were able to stay in the game when things they normally do weren’t working.
Defensively, the secondary might have had problems, but the run D was fantastic, keeping Iowa State to just 32 yards and now big plays.
Anthony Miller was held to just four catches for 55 yards and a score, Riley Ferguson threw for 286 yards and two scores, and the chances were there to come up with the win – but the Cyclones did what the Cyclones do …
3. The Iowa State way
How do you beat a great offense? You don’t let it get on the field.
Memphis had the ball for just over 22 minutes, with the Iowa State O converting 7-of-17 third down chances and 2-of-3 third down tries. Iowa State was able to come up with the right defensive stops to keep everyone fresh, QB Kyle Kempt had a strong, efficient performance, and he had to with no running game to help the cause. It also helps to have …
2. Allen Lazard
His decision to return for his senior year was a spark for the season. That’s not to say Iowa State wouldn’t have been good if he was off to the NFL, but he was a key part of the puzzle for an offense that had to be timely and opportunistic.
Against Memphis, he caught ten passes for 142 yards and a score, Hakeem Butler made five grabs for 111 yards and a big touchdown, and Kempt finished with 314 passing yards. As always, it wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was an eight-win season for …
1. Matt Campbell
And now, the hot head coach has a bowl win, too.
He’s the guy whose team beat Oklahoma, TCU, pushed Iowa in a tough loss, and turned into a player in the Big 12 for the first time in a really, really long time.
There was nothing cheap about this. It’s not like the Cyclones came up with this record and this season by beating up on a bunch of weaklings.
This was a real season with real wins against some really great teams. There might have been a few times when Iowa State was simply overmatched, but Campbell proved that it really is possible to win at Ames.
He’s got the contract now, and he’s got the potential to build on this to make Iowa State even better. This doesn’t feel like a fluke in any way.