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Cyclones look to showcase defensive presence against a high-powered Memphis offense

Kansas+State+running+back+Treshaun+Ward+rushes+the+ball+at+the+Iowa+State+vs.+Kansas+State+football+game+at+Bill+Snyder+Family+Stadium+on+Nov.+25%2C+2023+in+Manhattan%2C+Kansas.
Jacob Rice
Kansas State running back Treshaun Ward rushes the ball at the Iowa State vs. Kansas State football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Nov. 25, 2023 in Manhattan, Kansas.

Iowa State prepares to travel to Memphis to play one final game to wrap up its 2023 season, as it will take on the Tigers in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

The Cyclones had previously taken on the Tigers back in 2017 in the same bowl game, as Iowa State narrowly beat Memphis by a score of 21-20.

Even while being considered the away team during a supposed neutral game, Iowa State had shown that they had been the better team, and the Cyclones will look to do so again on Friday.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell acknowledged the successes Memphis has found during the season but also has accredited his team for being able to play on the road which could lead to success Friday.

“Memphis is a really talented team that plays really well at home, but we’ve also been fortunate to play really well on the road late in the season. Naturally, you think of going to a bowl game as an away game, so you gotta replicate that process in a lot of ways,” Campbell said.

Of Memphis’ 9-3 record, the Tigers went 4-2 at home with those two losses coming against the two top teams in the American Athletic Conference, Tulane and SMU.

The Tigers are led by their high-flying offense that averages over 39 points per game which is among the best in not just their conference, but in the entire nation, ranking in the top 20.

Led by quarterback Seth Henigan, who has already thrown for over 3,500 passing yards, the Tigers found success within the depth of their position groups with nearly every offensive player making a sizable contribution to Memphis’ success this season.

Defensive end Joey Petersen continued to show improvement as his third regular season came to a close but looks to end the season off on the right foot against a team that performs its best in the red zone.

“We’ve noticed that they’re really good in the red zone. They’re high-scoring when they get there, so trying to keep them out of there as much as we can is key,” Petersen said.

The Tigers have scored points on 90% of their red zone trips, with 78% of those trips ending up in touchdowns. They have shown before that when it comes to scoring, they are more likely to convert on their red zone trips than other teams they face.

The Cyclones have done a great job of keeping their opponents from scoring touchdowns while in the red zone, as they have held opposing teams to about a 55% rate on the season which could aid them in their matchup with Memphis.

Linebacker Gerry Vaughn has been known as one of the few veteran leaders on a young Cyclone defense and has had prior experiences with Iowa State in bowl games as he prepares to play in his third.

One of the keys to stopping the Memphis offense starts with the quarterback in Henigan, as Vaughn sees it as a great opportunity for a team that defied so many odds during the season.

“You can see it on film he’s a great quarterback,” Vaughn said. “He’s got a great arm and great accuracy, so we’ve got a great challenge ahead, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl matchup between the Cyclones and the Tigers will start at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The game will also be nationally televised on ESPN.

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Jacob Rice, Visual Editor
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