Ladies and gentlemen, the time has finally come. After a four week lull of no Cyclone football, the team travels to Orlando for the Camping World Bowl to take on the Fightin’ Irish. Iowa State has zero history with Notre Dame, but believe it or not, we do have a little experience in bowl games. The ‘Clones have just a 4-10 record in postseason play, but the 4 wins have all come in within the last 20 years, so, talk about a hot streak. Dan McCarney led two teams to bowl game victories, while Paul Rhoads and Matt Campbell have each been able to tally one into the win column in 2009 and 2017, respectively.
Matt Campbell’s first bowl game as the head honcho in Ames saw the Cyclones head to the (probably) most prestigious honor for a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 school, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. The bowl committee took a page right out of the 2000 NCAA Tournament committee’s book, and schedule Iowa State to take on Memphis in Memphis (yes, I am still upset that Iowa State had to play Michigan State in Michigan and didn’t win a national championship even though I wasn’t born).
The year is 2017, December the 30th. The ‘Clones are coming off of a downward spiral to the end the regular season, dropping 3 of their last 4 games. While the end of the season was a rough patch, this season was special. Kyle Kempt had taken over after a 2-2 start for ISU and led the Whirlybirds to incredible wins over 3rd ranked Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech, and 4th ranked TCU to let the college football know there is a legit team in Central Iowa, and it wasn’t Dowling. Joel Lanning moved to middle linebacker, still played quarterback, and played a lot of special teams to become one of the best stories in all of college football. Life was good. Senior receiver Allen Lazard set several receiving records, and found himself as possibly the greatest wide out to put on the cardinal and gold. He would also go out with bang in his final game to add to his legacy.
The Cyclones opened up the game and it had become obvious Lazard was a big part of the game plan, getting targeted by Kempt on 3 of his first 4 attempts, before Kempt found Hakeem Butler for a 52 yard score to put the good guys up, 7-0. Fast-forward to the next time the offense takes the field and Lazard would rack up the touches, catching 3 passes for 55 yards on a possession that would end on a failed 4th down conversion attempt. Memphis would capitalize to tie it up at 7-7, and the fighting Matt Cambells would have one more shot on offense before the end of the first quarter, where Lazard would add one more catch to put him at 5 catches for 74 yards through only 15 minutes of play.
Lazard would add another 2 catches and 34 yards before the break as Iowa State went into the half up 14-7.
Memphis was able to answer right out of the half and take the lead on a quick 4 play, 66 yard drive to take the lead 17-14. Both teams traded punts before what would end up being a very pivotal possession for your hometown ‘Clones. The Tigers had made an emphasis to shut down Lazard in the second half, causing players like Hakeem Butler and Marchie Murdock to step up and drive ISU down the field. Allen would be able to haul in one catch for 19 yards before making one of the greatest plays in Cyclone history, concentrating enough to reel in a tipped ball that was intended for anyone but the defense on a 5 yard catch to put the ‘Clones up for good. Despite a late fumble by David Montgomery, Iowa State was able to escape Memphis in one piece and bring home the 2017 Liberty Bowl crown.
Lazard tallied 10 catches for 142 yards and a score to earn Offensive MVP for the game, which he would celebrate by turning a Memphis helmet upside-down after the game in his interview.