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Memphis takes on Iowa State in Liberty Bowl ‘home’ game


Iowa State’s solid defense will be challenged by the high-powered Memphis offense in the Liberty Bowl on Friday in Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis (9-3), making its ninth bowl appearance since 2014, won five of its last six games and scored at least 44 points in each victory over that span.

Iowa State (7-5) is making its sixth bowl appearance in seven seasons, including a 21-20 win over Memphis in the 2017 Liberty Bowl.

Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield was an assistant coach when the Tigers faced Iowa State in 2017. Silverfield also worked under Cyclones coach Matt Campbell as an offensive consultant at Toledo in 2014.

“Obviously it’s an honor and a privilege for us. Our football program and our university are so appreciative of the invite and to be able play in our home stadium,” Silverfield said. “We’re excited about the matchup. Obviously, we know what Iowa State brings to the table … Big 12 team that’s won a lot of football games.”

The Cyclones were second in the Big 12 in yards per game allowed with 349.3, behind only third-ranked Texas. Iowa State was third in points allowed at 21.7, trailing only Texas and Kansas State.

The opportunistic Cyclones have 16 interceptions and three fumble recoveries, tying for 18th nationally with a plus-8 turnover margin.

As of Tuesday, there was no word from Iowa State if defensive back T.J. Tampa, a third-team All-American, would play in the bowl game.

Iowa State, which won just one conference game last season and was 4-8 overall, has a much-improved offense. The Cyclones averaged 29.4 points per game in Big 12 play this season, compared with 16.3 a year ago.

Quarterback Rocco Becht, the 2023 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,674 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jaylin Noel is the fourth receiver in school history with back-to-back 60-catch seasons.

Two of the Cyclones’ top rushers, Eli Sanders and Cartevious Norton, entered the transfer portal and did not play in the season finale at Kansas State. But true freshman Abu Sama III rushed for 276 yards on 16 carries with touchdown runs of 77, 71, and 60 yards.

Memphis averages 39.7 points per game, seventh-best in the nation, while allowing 29.0 The Tigers have scored 20 or more points in 26 consecutive games — the longest active streak in the nation — dating back to the end of the 2021 season.

Seth Henigan has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,519 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He had 15 touchdown passes to just two picks in the Tigers’ final six games.

“He’s got great confidence and they ask him to do a lot,” Campbell told the Des Moines Register about Henigan. “They ask him to put them in the right situation a lot. And he’s got such great playmakers on the outside that he’s able to find matchups and really deliver the football with great consistency.”

Roc Taylor has 61 catches for 981 yards and four touchdowns, and Dameer Blankumsee has 51 receptions for 825 yards and a team-high six scores.

Blake Watson leads the ground game with 1,045 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, along with 50 catches for 458 yards out of the backfield.

–Field Level Media

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