July 18, 2024

Redemption on the Horizon: Memphis Tigers Set Their Sights on the 65th AutoZone Liberty Bowl 

Redemption on the Horizon: Memphis Tigers Set Their Sights on the 65th AutoZone Liberty Bowl 

The city of Memphis, Tennessee is set to echo with the cheering of Tiger Nation once again as the Memphis Tigers football team gears up for a pivotal face-off with the Iowa State Cyclones in the 65th AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Friday, Dec. 29 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The game, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m., will be cast into the national spotlight, with live coverage on ESPN.

The Memphis Tigers’ selection to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl underscores a decade of consistent elite performance. This marks the 10th straight year that Memphis has earned a bowl bid, tying for the ninth-longest streak in the country and outpacing all non-Power 5 teams. 

This year’s Liberty Bowl, however, carries an additional weight of significance. It serves as a rematch of the 2017 AutoZone Liberty Bowl, a game that echoed with the groans of a narrow defeat as Iowa State edged the Tigers, 21-20. This second encounter promises to stoke the fires of competition, with the Tigers eager to redress their historic loss.

Iowa State Cyclones have had an impressive run this season, with an overall record of 7-5 and a sterling 6-2 in Big 12 play. Notable among their victories in 2023 were wins against formidable opponents like Oklahoma State (34-27) and the then-ranked No. 19 Kansas State (42-35) in their final regular-season game.

Looking Back at the 2017 Liberty Bowl: A Close Call for the Tigers

The 2017 Liberty Bowl remains etched in the collective memory of Tiger Nation, not for the defeat, but for the incredible season the University of Memphis football team showcased. The Tigers, in a game that had their supporters on the edge of their seats, dropped a close 21-20 decision to Iowa State in front of a crowd of 57,266 at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. This turnout was the 10th-largest in the history of the postseason classic and the third-largest since the stadium underwent ADA renovations in 2009.

Riley Ferguson and Genard Avery, the Most Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Players for Memphis respectively, put up a valiant fight in the game. Ferguson completed 21-of-33 passes for 286 yards and two scores. Avery made his mark with five total tackles (four solo), two sacks (19 yards), and 2.5 TFL (28 yards). The two sacks tied for the second-most in Liberty Bowl history, while Avery’s sack yardage (19) and TFL yardage (28) ranked fifth and second respectively in the classic’s history.

The game unfurled with Iowa State drawing first blood, scoring a touchdown just under two minutes into the game. After seven minutes, Memphis reciprocated with a touchdown. The teams exchanged blows throughout the game, with both sides seizing and losing the lead. The fourth quarter was a scoreless standoff, but not without its thrills. An apparent touchdown by Iowa State was negated by a fumble, giving Memphis a final opportunity that unfortunately could not be capitalized on.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

The Road Ahead: A Chance for Redemption

As the Memphis Tigers prepare for the upcoming 65th AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the ghost of their 2017 defeat will undoubtedly be a driving force. The rematch against Iowa State offers a stage for redemption and an opportunity to demonstrate their growth since the last encounter. It’s a chance to rewrite the narrative and prove that they have learned from their past. 

With the stakes high and anticipation brewing, the 65th AutoZone Liberty Bowl is set up to be more than just a game. It’s a story of resilience, a testament to the journey of the Memphis Tigers, and a thrilling chapter in the annals of college football. As the teams take the field, the spirit of competition will be alive and well, promising a game that will be remembered for years.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

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