Notebook: Cyclones prep for Tigers quarterback, Lazard and Kempt weigh in on bowl game

Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt speaks with members of the media during press availability on Dec. 28 in Memphis.

Aaron Marner

With less than 48 hours until kickoff against the Memphis Tigers, the Iowa State football team met with the media for the final time.

Other than coach Matt Campbell’s press conference Friday morning, this was the last press conference of the football season before the bowl game Saturday morning. Jon Heacock (defensive coordinator), Tom Manning (offensive coordinator) and several players met with the media to discuss the Tigers, Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson, and more. Here are some of the takeaways.

Ferguson puts pressure on Cyclone defense

Iowa State has played a number of great quarterbacks this season en route to a Liberty Bowl appearance.

Iowa’s Nate Stanley finished the season with 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph compiled 45 total touchdowns in the air and on the ground.

And, of course, the Cyclones knocked off Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners in early October.

But Jon Heacock said Ferguson is right up there with the best of them.

“I’ve been asked a couple times this week, ‘who does Riley Ferguson remind you of?'” Heacock said. “Baker Mayfield… I think Riley Ferguson’s as good as anybody we’ve played, without question.”

Ferguson led the Tigers to a 10-2 record. That was due in large part to his 3,971 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns. He also added another six touchdowns on the ground.

Ferguson has thrown just one interception per 49 attempts this year, so not only has he been dangerous, but teams have also struggled to take advantage of mistakes.

“He’s really sharp,” Heacock said. “He’s been in the system. He understands the strengths of it… I think he knows what their team and coaches are trying to do. That’s very obvious to me on film.

“He keeps plays alive. He doesn’t seem to give them very many bad plays.”

Kempt finally healthy

Redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Kempt has had an up-and-down season, from starting as the third-string option to winning at No. 3 Oklahoma and finally suffering injuries late in the season.

But with a month between the last regular season game and the bowl game, Kempt is ready to go.

“It’s been great,” Kempt said of the month between games. “Just getting the extra work in with the guys. Mostly throughout the season, it’s been all game prep, but now we’ve had some time off just to continue to practice things… it’s been really good, especially to get healthy.”

Kempt and sophomore running back David Montgomery both were limited in practices and missed some game time due to injuries late in the year.

Montgomery told the media yesterday he was “150 percent” healthy, so Cyclone fans need not worry about the 1,000-yard rusher.

The same goes for Kempt.

“I was limited in practice, that was the difficult thing,” Kempt said. “Once I was in the game I was fine for the most part.”

Lazard chases records

While ending his career with one final win may be senior wide receiver Allen Lazard’s main goal, he’s also had some fun this year breaking school records.

That talk didn’t end Thursday.

Former Cyclone wide receiver Todd Blythe has had some good back-and-forth with Lazard this season as the latter has passed the former on the leaderboards recently.

Lazard said he hasn’t talked with Blythe lately about breaking the final major record — touchdowns — but he wants to break that one, too.

“I haven’t [talked trash to Blythe] but I plan on doing it,” Lazard said. “Just to hold it above him. What do I need, like six more for the all-time [record]?

“I might have to get six then just to erase Todd Blythe from Iowa State history.”