AMES – When Iowa State football’s schedule first came out, the Cyclones had six road games on it.
After it was announced on Sunday that Iowa State is playing Memphis in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, the Cyclones got another de facto away game on their schedule.
“You’re going to get a great crowd, you’re certainly going to get a great fan base,” coach Matt Campbell said. “It’s just another great challenge for the Cyclones, another big football game. I don’t think we’d want to have it any other way.”
Senior receiver Allen Lazard was in attendance the last time Iowa State went to the Liberty Bowl in 2012. His brother Anthony was a linebacker for the Cyclones. Lazard remembers it being cold, rainy and sleety.
But he also remembers Cyclone fans packing Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
“I remember the spirit walk was crazy,” Lazard said. “I remember [Jeremiah George] running through like 20 people because he was so excited. If you look at an aerial picture of the stadium, it was like 90 percent Cyclone Nation, which I really thought was unbelievable.”
Lazard has faith that Iowa State fans will travel well and pack in the stadium, but he’s still viewing this is a road game, and a great test.
Iowa State has fared well on the road this year, going 4-2 on the road, including a win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma.
“We beat Oklahoma at their home, so I don’t think any crowd is too intimidating at this point,” Lazard said. “But having Cyclone Nation there to have our backs, it’ll be very key to our success.”
Quarterback Kyle Kempt believes it’s fitting that Iowa State has to finish off this season with a road-like game.
The Cyclones’ season has been filled with challenges and tests – multiple quarterback changes, position changes, people playing in both sides of the ball, injuries and losses in the final seconds of games.
“I think it’s good for our team in the fact that we have a very important challenge ahead of us to cap off the season and take momentum into next season,” Kempt said. “You couldn’t really ask for a better circumstance to have a tough challenge like that in a road environment like that to finish off this kind of season, we’re excited for it.”
Lineman Jake Campos isn’t worried about the crowd at all. In fact, he thinks it could have a true neutral-site feel to it.
“They’re going to travel well,” Campos said. “Iowa State fans are the best in the country. Even on our away games this year, you could hear that little section that we were allowed. You could hear them on every play and sometimes you forget you’re in a different stadium because you hear that crowd going off, and that’s super special. Knowing that if we can get a third to half of that stadium, it’s going to be loud. I think that’ll really favor us.”
While the focus was on the location, Campbell and Iowa State’s seniors aren’t overlooking what kind of opportunity this is.
Iowa State has only won nine games in the three seasons prior to this one.
“Going out and finally getting a bowl win and being out there and celebrating with my teammates one last time is something seniors here haven’t been able to do.” Campos said. “It’s what we’ve been working for this whole time and what we were really trying to achieve.”
Lazard wants to cement his legacy with a bowl win. He’s broken records, been named to All-Big 12 teams and has been the face of Iowa State football since he stepped on campus.
“The failures we’ve had, to succeed and solidify my career here – to go out with a win will be very satisfactory,” Lazard said.