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Royston: No defense, no run game, no bowl win

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Iowa State was never in contention for the Liberty Bowl trophy since the opening snap. That became brutally clear on the third play of the game when Seth Henigan floated a long pass to DeMeer Blankumsee for a 70-yard touchdown.

Throughout the day, Iowa State looked lost on defense. Along with that, the lack of a run game from Iowa State put too much pressure on Rocco Becht to carry the game, which ended in the 36-26 loss to Memphis.

Throughout the day, you could feel the loss of T.J. Tampa on every defensive snap. Memphis was able to control the air consistently through the game, connecting on big plays nearly every drive.

Along with the passing game working for Memphis, the Tigers controlled the middle of the field in the run game as well. A spot that Tampa has been elite in all season long.

You could tell from the way that Beau Freyler was darting back and forth across the field putting his all into making tackles that the Cyclones needed another playmaker. Although there have been players that filled in well for other absences, Tampa’s presence is something that could not be replaced.

I honestly believe that a defensive showing like that against Memphis helped raise Tampa’s draft stock. Not being on the field showed how much of an impact he brings to the defense which is something that does not show up on a stat sheet.

Although it is tough to say that one player could have been the difference in many crucial moments throughout the game, Tampa would have added a significant boost to the team.

I do have to give credit to Memphis as well, since the Tigers found the many cracks in Iowa State’s defense and ate all day long. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell did note that the familiarity the Tigers had with the Cyclones’ defense did play a part in the poor showing.

Having coaches on Memphis that played against Iowa State’s 2017 team, and coaches familiar with the defense by other means, helped the Tigers find big plays with ease.

Along with that, the Cyclones were not ready for the defense that Memphis was sporting, which was clear from the zero rushing yards by the end of the game.

Memphis was just better prepared than Iowa State.

“They came out in some things that we just had not seen,” Campbell said.

Campbell noted that Memphis made a defensive coordinator change during bowl prep, which caused the Cyclones to come out unprepared. The Cyclones prepared for looks up front that never came and were caught off guard by the run defense that Memphis did show.

Given how close the game ended up being, despite the lack of defense from Iowa State, the one major area that Iowa State lacked was the run game. Memphis was better, and at the end of the day, the better rushing team won.

“When you look at that rushing total, again, the ability to run the ball, and our inability at times to rush the ball we needed to, that’s not how we win football games,” Campbell said.

However, despite all the disappointing areas from the Cyclones in the loss to Memphis, I still have hope in the Cyclones’ future.

Campbell said the shortcomings in the Liberty Bowl will just act as fuel for the offseason, which is something that the team is already buying into.

“I feel like this is gonna be a good spark going into the offseason,” Jayden Higgins said.

It better prove to be a spark too, because if you take out the incredible game Becht, the Cyclones really did not have anything going for them, which is weird.

Abu Sama is talented, we have seen that, but that was not on display in the Liberty Bowl. The young defense is also talented, but they were nowhere to be found against Memphis.

Yes, Memphis has a really talented and scary offense, but it was not anything that Iowa State could not handle. The Cyclones just did not look themselves, which resulted in a disappointing trip home for the team.

However, the Cyclones have dealt with struggles all season, so this is most likely just going to be another kick in the butt for the team to come out better than ever.

“What we’ve seen all season from our team is handling adversity really well,” Becht said.

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  • D

    Dennis Gustafson | Dec 31, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    I was disappointed and defense also. It seemed like most the time we were just rushing three lineman. And their quarterback just picked us apart passing. Even the announcers on TV mentioned that. We needed to put more pressure on the quarterback. It might not have done any good but we did not do that very much at all. I believe our defense needs to change next year. Maybe not totally but we need to get more pressure on the quarterback especially the teams that have quarterbacks that are good at passing the ball. And you’re right the offense has to get better. More consistent in the running game. We cannot just depend on the passing game all the time like that game. Rocco did a good job but he was under pressure a lot too. We got a lot of good young players so hopefully we’ll be better next year!

    Reply
  • B

    Bob Rowan | Dec 31, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Memphis fan here. Just want to say that in 2017, I was impressed with the Cyclone fan base. Iowa Nice is a real thing. Y’all were the same great, classy group this year as well. Be safe traveling home and good luck next year.

    Reply
    • T

      Ted Johnson | Jan 1, 2024 at 12:54 pm

      What a class response from a Memphis fan! Thanks from Cyclone fan.

      Reply
  • B

    Bob Connor | Dec 30, 2023 at 7:10 am

    When is someone going to ask CMC why he always defers? We give the ball to them in their home stadium. They score in 3 plays and we were behind the entire game. Then what do we do with our 1st possession of the 2nd half? 3 and out. This scenario has happened many times.

    Reply
  • L

    Larry Thomas | Dec 30, 2023 at 6:21 am

    “Throughout the day” it was obvious why the Cyclones belong in the Midget Football League. Campbell should be fired., esp. after losing to Iowa early in the season. Where is Johnny Majors when he’s needed?

    Reply
    • T

      Ted Johnson | Jan 1, 2024 at 12:47 pm

      Campbell by far the best football coach ISU Cyclones have had including Majors, Bruce, McCarney, and Rhodes. Greatest need for Cyclone football is a dedicated top notch offensive line coach. Hopefully it will become fixed in the off season.

      Reply