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Three Big Takeaways: First quarter performance haunts Cyclones in loss to Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Iowa State traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to take on Memphis at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Friday, as the Cyclones looked to wrap up their season on a good note with another potential bowl win against the Tigers.

That was not the case in Friday’s game, as Iowa State got pummeled in nearly all facets by Memphis in its 36-26 loss. With the Tigers’ win over the Cyclones, they got revenge for their loss back in 2017 to Iowa State in the same bowl game at their home field.

Ugly first quarter puts Iowa State in an early hole

After electing to defer the ball to the second half, Iowa State looked to send out their defense who had been a stout force throughout the majority of the season against a high-flying offense in Memphis.

The Cyclones did the exact opposite of stalling the Tigers’ offense, as they let up 19 points by the Memphis offense which was highlighted by two big plays that went over 50 yards and ended up resulting in touchdowns.

Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan finished the quarter going 9-for-10 for 172 yards and two touchdown passes. Henigan had also rushed in the other touchdown for 11 yards as he helped vault Memphis over Iowa State early on.

Head coach Matt Campbell knows that Memphis came out firing on all cylinders to start the game and put his team behind which led to their eventual loss on Friday.

“I think they had a really good plan to come out that certainly stressed us,” Campbell said. “We kind of just put ourselves behind the eight-ball early on and I give them a lot of credit.”

Key players in defensive backs T.J. Tampa and Malik Verdon did not play in this game which could have helped limit the big play ability of the Tiger offense.

Becht-Higgins connection shines despite blowing loss to end season

Despite falling to the Tigers in their home stadium on Friday, two players stood out among the others that helped keep Iowa State within reach of Memphis and that was quarterback Rocco Becht and wide receiver Jayden Higgins.

For Becht, he had the best game he has ever played as a Cyclone, where he threw for 446 yards and three touchdown passes on a 57.9% completion rating. While the run game struggled, Becht kept Iowa State alive with his arm that helped keep the Cyclones within reach of the Tigers.

For Higgins, he finished his game with nine catches for 214 yards and one touchdown as he provided a massive boost to the Cyclones’ offense. Most of his production came in the second quarter, the same quarter that Iowa State seemed to find a spark and claw their way back into the game.

Higgins has proven to be a reliable target for quarterback Rocco Becht alongside wide receiver Jaylin Noel this season, as they will look to continue their connection going into next season.

“Jayden’s my outlet. Wherever he is, I’m always looking at his side. If he’s open or one-on-one, I’m gonna go to him because of the trust I have in him that’s built throughout the season,” Becht said.

Cyclones provide bright future following tough loss to end season

While the Cyclones may be hanging their heads low on the tough loss to Memphis on Friday, they still provide a bright future for what is to come.

Coming into the 2023 season, a lot of doubt was surrounding this team due to players being investigated for potential gambling and just losing a lot of the veteran players who come and go every season.

But for the Cyclones to go out there and go 7-5 in the regular season, and 6-3 in Big 12 conference play, has been nothing short of impressive after their 2022 season

“As a team, we went through a lot of trials and tribulations. I feel like this is just a spark heading into the offseason since we always have the same goal in mind every year,” Higgins said.

In an expanding Big 12 conference and College Football Playoff, Iowa State will look to continue to turn a lot of heads with the chemistries they have built as a team this season.

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