Iowa State edges No. 19 Memphis for Liberty Bowl win
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) —
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.
Iowa State (8-5) held on to win after losing its first fumble this season just as it appeared on the verge of scoring an insurance touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"This group is as resilient and as tough as any group I've ever been around," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said.
The Cyclones led 21-20 and had third-and-goal from the 1 when David Montgomery fumbled as he was crossing the goal line. Jonathan Cook recovered in the end zone for a touchback with 4:06 left.
The call stood after replays were inconclusive as to whether Montgomery had reached the end zone before Memphis' O'Bryan Goodson knocked the ball loose. Iowa State was attempting to become the first Football Bowl Subdivision team in recorded history to play an entire season without losing a fumble.
Memphis (10-3) drove to the Iowa State 40 on its next possession but lost the ball on downs when Riley Ferguson overthrew Phil Mayhue on fourth-and-10 with 1:52 remaining. Iowa State ran out the clock from there.
"They did a nice job," Memphis coach Mike Norvell said. "We didn't make the plays that were necessary to be able to win the game."
Iowa State pulled ahead for good on a bizarre play with 4:28 left in the third quarter. On second-and-goal from the 5, Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt's pass appeared to elude Memphis safety Josh Perry's outstretched arms and get tipped by Iowa State's Marchie Murdock before Lazard caught it in the back of the end zone.
The touchdown put Iowa State ahead 21-17 and came two plays after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Genard Avery wiped out an interception by Memphis' Curtis Akins and gave the Cyclones first-and-goal.
Lazard ended up with 142 yards receiving in his final college game and was named the Liberty Bowl's most valuable player. His 10th touchdown catch of the year set Iowa State's single-season record.
His 10 catches matched the highest total in the Liberty Bowl's 59-game history. Other receivers with 10 catches in a Liberty Bowl were Louisville's Deion Branch in 2000 and Arkansas' Bobby Joe Edmonds in 1984.
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.
The Tigers entered averaging 47.7 points per game to rank second among FBS teams but posted their second-lowest point total of the season. Iowa State's defense was missing two key players, with defensive back Evrett Edwards ruled ineligible and safety Kamari Cotton-Moya suspended for a violation of team rules.
Ferguson was 21 of 33 for 286 yards with two touchdown passes but was sacked six times. The Tigers were playing without injured 1,154-yard rusher Darrell Henderson, who had averaged 8.9 yards per carry this season.
Iowa State: Norvell said before the game that Iowa State would be the best defense the Tigers have faced all year. Iowa State backed that up by pressuring Ferguson all day and limiting the Tigers to 53 yards rushing on 26 carries. J.D. Waggoner and JaQuon Bailey recorded two sacks each for the Cyclones.
Memphis: Missed opportunities haunted the Tigers. An ineligible receiver penalty nullified a first-quarter touchdown pass from Ferguson to Patrick Taylor and led to a missed field-goal attempt. Memphis also lost the ball on downs in Iowa State territory twice. 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 a 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 pass-catching tandem of Ferguson and Anthony Miller, the most productive receiver in school history.
Iowa State begins its 2018 schedule by hosting South Dakota State on Sept. 1.
Memphis hosts Mercer on Sept. 1, 2018.