The long wait between the disappointing loss and the Liberty Bowl was one that gave Cyclones ample time to not only digest the game and analyze the Memphis Tigers, but to reflect on this team’s remarkable season and begin looking forward to what appears to be a bright future. In the days and weeks to come, we’ll have lots of content for everyone to digest about the season that was, and where the program is headed. That said, let’s take a look at what went wrong and what went right during Iowa State’s Liberty victory.
What Went Wrong
This wasn’t really a new problem, but the offensive line really struggled through most of this game, highlighted by David Montgomery’s 52 yards on 24 carries. DM is the best running back in the Big 12, and probably top 3-5 in the country, but even he can’t overcome poor line play on every single carry. Memphis’ interior lineman top out around 280 pounds, so the line should have been able to get some push and create space. Alas, Montgomery was forced to earn pretty much every single yard beyond the LOS.
Kyle Kempt’s Accuracy
Per usual, Kyle largely displayed excellent touch and decision on his throws. However, on a number of occasions, replays (and even live footage) showed wobbly, lame duck passes that were often under-thrown, forcing the receivers to make an adjustment. On Allen Lazard’s tip-drill touchdown reception, replays showed that Kempt was probably looking to get it to the back of the endzone where at least 3 Cyclone receivers were headed, but the ball was thrown about 5 feet short, getting tipped in the air before mercifully landing in the arms of Al Catchino. Granted, most of the REALLY under-thrown balls were thrown directly into 15+ mph headwinds, but that’s an adjustment a 5th year senior quarterback should be able to make.
Kamari Cotton-Moya and Evrett Edwards
KCM and Evrett Edwards were both suspended for the Liberty Bowl, ending both of their careers on a sour note. Cotton-Moya’s suspension was related to a team rules violation, while Edwards’ was academic ineligibility. Edwards’ case is particularly strange given that the senior grad transfer earned an undergraduate degree from Duke in just three years. In their place, Braxton Lewis and Lawrence White earned the starting spots. Both played well, with White racking up 8 tackles for second on the team. Neither suspension ended up hurting Iowa State much, but it was difficult to see a guy like Kamari Cotton-Moya, a four year starter and one of the most decorated safeties in Iowa State history, not get to play his final game in a bowl win.
What Went Right
The greatest receiver to ever wear the cardinal and gold ended his Iowa State career on the perfect note. He tied a Liberty Bowl record with 10 receptions, and ended the day with 142 yards and one spectacular tip-drill touchdown catch. Allen has been the model of consistency and continual growth in his career at Iowa State, and it showed last Saturday. We’ll dive further into Allen’s legacy as we recap the season over the next couple weeks.
What hasn’t this guy done all year? He always finds a way to make a play and impact the game. On Saturday, Joel did his damage on both side of the ball, racking up 4 tackles and a sack on defense, and 20 yards and a touchdown on offense. His biggest play came on Iowa State’s final offensive drive when they simply needed to get a first down to seal the game. On a crucial 3rd down play, Joel Lanning took the quarterback keeper up the middle and got the first down. Ball game. The consummate teammate and athlete delivered the victory to Ames, Iowa in storybook fashion, and none of us could be more grateful to have had Joel play out his career at Iowa State.
Quite possibly the MVP of this entire season, John Heacock has cemented himself as one of the very best defensive coordinators in the entire country. For the entire Big 12 season, Iowa State consistently held opponents more than a full touchdown below their scoring average, and consistently made stop after stop to keep the team in games or win them outright. So what happened against the Memphis Tigers offense, which is second in the country in scoring at over 45 points per game? The Cyclone defense only held them to almost FOUR touchdowns below their scoring average. The defensive performance in the Liberty Bowl is a true testament to just how good Coach Heacock is.
Stay tuned to WRNL all throughout the next couple weeks as we break down the 2017 season, and look ahead to 2018.