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Cyclones, Tigers and dueling aspirations set for the Liberty Bowl

Terry Davis

The University of Memphis’ 2023 postseason bowl appearance will be a “backyard” experience against an Iowa State team eager to build upon a turn-around season.

The Tigers (9-3) will take on the Cyclones (7-5) in the 65th Annual Liberty Bowl at Simmons Bank Stadium – their home turf – on December 29, with the kickoff set for 2:30 p.m.

“We are very excited for the opportunity. It is not very often you can partner with friends in your own backyard for an experience like this,” said Laird Veatch, the U of M’s vice president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “This is a special opportunity for our fans. We are going to do everything we can for a great experience for our fans.”

Liberty Bowl Committee President Steve Earhart talked by telephone with Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell about the pairing of the American Athletic Conference and Big 12 Conference teams.

“Matt was talking about the game and the great atmosphere,” said Earhart. “He was looking forward to coaching against (Memphis head) coach (Ryan) Silverfield.”

The Big 12’s Iowa State was 4-8 last season and looks to continue to grow with the Liberty Bowl appearance.

Matt Campbell, head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. (Screen capture)

“The only way to really get better at football is to practice football,” Campbell said in a television interview soon after the announcement of the matchup. “One of the great things about … the (Liberty Bowl) game being on the 29th is that it gives us more time to really grow forward.

“This group has not wasted an opportunity to get better. And my guess is that the leadership of this team – and really the energy of our young players – will allow us to get through finals and really put some time and effort into continuing to get better at the sport of football.”

Silverfield said it was privilege for the Tigers, who will be seeking a coveted 10-win season – to get the invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl.

“To be able to play in our home stadium is an honor. We are excited about the matchup,” he said. “Their quarterback was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. I couldn’t be more honored to be taking my team there.”

The two programs fielded teams in the 2017 Liberty Bowl, where 57,000 in-the-stadium fans witnessed a 21-20 Iowa State win.

For the Tigers, going bowling at home is a bittersweet opportunity. One of the perks benefits of going to a bowl game is traveling to a different city and reaping all of the benefits that come with that experience. Conversely, by staying at home the Tigers will get the plusses of being in familiar environs and the program will not have to incur the travel and other costly expenses associated with bowl games.

“We are not getting on a plane, but we will get the guys out of their dorms and homes,” Silverfield said. “We will provide events for them. I know the bowl will have a tremendous setup for us.”

The 65th Annual Liberty Bowl at Simmons Bank Stadium will be televised nationally on ESPN. The first half will be the only football on television at that time, providing both programs with an enhanced opportunity to showcase their programs to the nation.

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