Storybook ending to a storybook career

Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard makes a catch during the 59th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee on Dec. 30, 2017. The Cyclones defeated the Tigers 21-20.

Jack Macdonald

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — While Allen Lazard had a storybook ending to a storybook career, he ultimately saved his best performance for last: The AutoZone Liberty Bowl. 

“All the individual awards are great and all and not necessarily why I came back,” Lazard said. “I just wanted to impact this university as much as I could both on and off the field.”

And boy, did he impact the Cyclones on and off the field. 

Going up against the Memphis Tigers (10-3, 7-1 AAC), the senior star hauled in a Liberty Bowl record 10 receptions. Those 10 receptions totaled for 142 receiving yards and one touchdown. 

One very big touchdown. 

Trailing 17-14 with 4:38 left in the third quarter, Kyle Kempt dropped back in shotgun formation only to stare into the eyes of a Memphis Tiger defensive lineman. Kempt back peddled and lobbed the ball in the direction of redshirt senior Marchie Murdock. 

One problem, Murdock had two defenders flanking him and the ball was thrown too high. The ball grazed off his finger tips destined for an incomplete pass.

In stepped Lazard.

Lazard had lined up on the right side of the formation and snuck his way to the back of the end zone and put himself in prime position to catch Murdock’s near catch. Touchdown, Cyclones.

“That’s the guy that’s going to be a legend in Ames, Iowa forever,” Kempt said about Lazard. 

That touchdown not only put the Cyclones up 21-17, ultimately enough points to secure the win, but it also gave Lazard his 10th touchdown catch of the season. That put Lazard atop the Iowa State record books for single season touchdowns, beating Todd Blythe’s record of nine. 

“I didn’t know he got that record until now,” Kempt said after the game. “For him to get that record though, he deserves it. The guy was a big recruit out of high school and came here and played up to his expectations and exceeded them too.” 

While Lazard wants to shrug off all the individual accolades, it’s hard not to bring them up. 

The Urbandale, Iowa native was named the Most Valuable Player of the Liberty Bowl and earned the title of Iowa State’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Heck, the 6-foot-5 giant even showed his hands aren’t the only tool in his toolbox. 

Late in the first half, Lazard caught a short slant pass from Kempt and turned up field only to see green turf ahead of him. Instead of finding an open lane, the ever so humble Lazard appeared to run right at a Tiger defender. 

“I’m a great receiver,” Lazard said. “I used my size to my advantage and I just felt like they couldn’t hold me at all.”

Allen Lazard: 1. Tiger defender: 0. 

Lazard ran right over the defender which turned the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium into Jack Trice South. 

“[Allen Lazard] made his plays and we made ours,” said Memphis linebacker Genard Avery. “That’s that.”

Lazard certainly did make his plays. Lazard’s 142 receiving yards were just six shy of surpassing his career-high of 147 set in 2015 against TCU. Although plays were made, the senior was targeted 15 times, and had a couple drops. 

Despite the drops, six of Lazard’s catches were caught for big first downs. It also helped that Lazard had Kempt slinging him the ball. Kempt had a career day throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second highest passing yard total in his career. 

Nonetheless, Lazard certainly went out with a bang and on top. While it wasn’t a fourth national championship like he had hoped for when he enrolled at Iowa State, it was a much-needed bowl win for a program that raised the standard in 2017 that was in large part thanks a record-breaking career from Lazard.  

“He’s the real deal,” Lanning said.