❚ Mem­phis to face Iowa State in Tigers’ Au­toZone Lib­erty Bowl de­but

TIGERS HEADED TO HOME­TOWN BOWL FOR FIRST TIME

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Mark Gian­notto Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

“I think all the se­niors ... we thought our last game at the Lib­erty Bowl was go­ing to be Se­nior Day against ECU. It’s a good thing to be able to play (there) again, and it adds an emo­tional value for us.” Gabe Kuhn Mem­phis of­fen­sive line­man

The Lib­erty Bowl — the sta­dium — has been ter­rific to the Mem­phis foot­ball team this year. And be­cause of that suc­cess, it will have one more game in front of the home fans.

The Au­toZone Lib­erty Bowl an­nounced Sun­day that the Tigers, who lost to Cen­tral Florida in Satur­day’s AAC cham­pi­onship game in Or­lando, will take on the Big 12’s Iowa State in this year’s game on Dec. 30 (11:30 a.m. CT, ABC). It’s the first time since the game’s in­cep­tion in 1959 that the Tigers have played in the post­sea­son con­test.

The Tigers, who were ranked No. 18 in the lat­est USA TO­DAY coaches poll and No. 19 in the new AP poll on Sun­day, fin­ished un­de­feated at home this year for the first time since Lib­erty Bowl Me­mo­rial Sta­dium opened in 1965.

“I think it’s awe­some,” of­fen­sive line­man Gabe Kuhn said. “I think all the se­niors ... we thought our last game at the Lib­erty Bowl was go­ing to be Se­nior Day against ECU. It’s a good thing to be able to play (there) again, and it adds an emo­tional value for us.

“There’s a lot of his­tory I’ve seen in my five years here. I’ve seen (the sta­dium) when there were 3,000 peo­ple there and I’ve seen it when there were 45,000 peo­ple there, and to see the dif­fer­ence, it’s awe­some.’

The at­mos­phere should be awe­some as well; the Cy­clones are in a bowl game for the first time since 2012, when they lost to Tulsa in Mem­phis. This

year’s team fin­ished 7-5 in coach Matt Camp­bell’s sec­ond sea­son, high­lighted by vic­to­ries over Ok­la­homa and TCU, the two teams that played in the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game over the week­end.

“I think this (is) a foot­ball team that’s re­ally changed the cul­ture of our pro­gram,” Camp­bell said via tele­phone dur­ing Sun­day’s an­nounce­ment at The Hil­ton Mem­phis.

“We’ve got a group of 20 se­niors that have never had the op­por­tu­nity to play in a bowl game, and we have a young team around them . ... It’s a group I know that is ex­tremely ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity and I know is ex­tremely ex­cited to rep­re­sent Iowa State Univer­sity.”

Lib­erty Bowl ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Steve Ehrhart said he was thrilled with the chance to match the up-and-com­ing Cy­clones with the home­town team.

“USC and UCLA have ba­si­cally made their liv­ing by hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to play in the Rose Bowl,” he said. “And the Univer­sity of Miami is go­ing to play in their home­town bowl, the Or­ange Bowl. I think it’s go­ing to be an out­stand­ing game.”

Sun­day also marked the first time in Mem­phis foot­ball his­tory that the Tigers have gone to bowl games in four straight years. Last year, Mem­phis lost to West­ern Ken­tucky in the Boca Ra­ton Bowl.

“Be­ing a Mem­phian, com­ing to the game ... it’s just ex­cit­ing,” said se­nior Chris­tian John­son of South­wind.

“I re­mem­ber (the Lib­erty Bowl) as ex­cit­ing games, lots of good tal­ent out there, and I feel like it will be great to be a part of it. All the peo­ple that sup­ported me over the years ... it’s tremen­dous for it to be my last col­lege game.”

Mem­phis coach Mike Norvell was not at Sun­day’s press con­fer­ence and un­avail­able to speak with re­porters. An ath­letic depart­ment spokesper­son said Norvell had a pre­vi­ously sched­uled re­cruit­ing visit on Sun­day af­ter­noon and could not at­tend the bowl game an­nounce­ment.

JIM WE­BER/THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

Mem­phis quar­ter­back Ri­ley Fer­gu­son an­swers ques­tions dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at The Hil­ton Mem­phis on Sun­day. The Au­toZone Lib­erty Bowl an­nounced that the Tigers will take on Iowa State in this year’s game, the first time since the game’s in­cep­tion in 1959 that the Tigers have played in the post­sea­son con­test.

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