MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Iowa State’s defense turned up the heat on Saturday’s 21-20 Liberty Bowl win over the Memphis Tigers.
The Cyclones recorded six sacks, tying a school-record for sacks in a game. Coming into the game, Tigers’ quarterback Riley Ferguson had only been sacked 15 times all season.
Coach Matt Campbell and his staff saw something on film they felt they could exploit.
“Two weeks ago, when we talked about the opponent and what we have to do to have success,” Campbell said, “I thought our defensive front was going to have to affect the quarterback. With what we do, and being able to switch up our coverage and allow that defensive line time to get to the quarterback, I thought that would be critical. That happened today. We were able to get pressure and make him feel uncomfortable, I think that was huge.”
Defensive ends J.D. Waggoner and JaQuan Bailey each had two sacks and linebackers Joel Lanning and Marcel Spears each added one of their own.
Waggoner said after the game Ferguson was really uncomfortable having to move his feet and that was key late in the game as Ferguson felt the Cyclones' pressure.
Lazard named Liberty Bowl MVP
Receiver Allen Lazard was named the Liberty MVP with his standout performance. The receiver recorded 10 receptions, 142 yards and a touchdown. The 10 receptions are a Liberty Bowl record.
“All the individual awards are great and all, but I just wanted to impact this university as much as I could both on and off the field,” Lazard said. “The individual awards are great, but I just want to win games and win championships. I just wanted to give my all today and hopefully someone comes along and breaks my records in the near future.”
Lazard’s touchdown catch came off of a pass that was tipped twice, once by Memphis defensive back Josh Perry and a second time by Marchie Murdock before it finally found Lazard in the back of the end zone.
“We practice drills like that all the time,” Lazard said. “We have a period called ‘win the 12’ where we just focus on maintaining the ball and not fumbling it and also catching it in traffic. That’s just one of those freakish plays that just happened. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
Many of Lazard’s catches came on third down in key situations.
“They’re just a lot smaller than me and I’m a big receiver so I used my size and speed to my advantage,” Campbell said. “I just felt like they couldn’t hold me at all.”
Senior secondary players Kamari Cotton-Moya and Evrett Edwards were both out for Saturday’s game.
Cotton-Moya was suspended due to a violation of team rules and Edwards was ineligible.
“Both guys have been great seniors for us,” coach Matt Campbell said. “There’s a standard that we’ve set in how we carry ourselves off the field and both of them were just rule violations, nothing to tarnish either of those two guys. Both of those guys have been a major reason of why we’ve been here. Disappointing, but I think it’s a lesson learned for our young guys and a lesson learned for everybody in the program that we’re going to do things the right way both on and off the field.”
At times, Memphis was able to have success in the passing game, but when it came down to it, the Cyclones were able to hold strong with its patched-together secondary.
“We wanted those guys to be with us here in a bowl game,” linebacker Joel Lanning said. “For whatever reason it didn’t happen, so next man up. Always have to be ready. Braxton [Lewis] and Lawrence White stepped up and made great plays. This defense just keeps playing together and team defense the whole time. Coach Heacock always says play harder, longer than they do. And that’s what we tried to do today, tried to play harder, longer. It obviously showed today.”