MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Shockwaves were sent through the Iowa State universe Saturday morning before the Cyclones’ 21-20 win over No. 18 Memphis in the 59th Autozone Liberty Bowl when it was announced senior starting safeties Kamari Cotton-Moya and Evrett Edwards would not play.
Cotton-Moya missed the game due to a suspension while Edwards had been deemed ineligible, but no further explanation was given. Matt Campbell cleared the air regarding their absences on the field following the game — slightly.
“Both guys have been great seniors for us,” Campbell said. “There’s a standard that we’ve set in how we carry ourselves off the field, too, and both of them were just rule violations. Nothing to tarnish either of those guys. Both of those guys have been a major reason why we’ve been here. Disappointing, but I think it’s a lesson learned for our young guys and a lesson learned for everyone in our program.”
In the end, neither player’s absence was detrimental as Iowa State’s defense was able to hold Memphis’ high-powered offense 27.7 points below their season average.
While there were a few moments when Tigers receivers were able to find openings, the “next man up” mentality won out, even once junior cornerback D’Andre Payne left the game with an injury.
“Next man up,” senior linebacker Joel Lanning said. “Always gotta be ready. Braxton (Lewis) and Lawrence White stepped up and made great plays for us today. This defense just keeps playing together — team defense the whole time. And coach Heacock, and everyone just says, ‘Play harder longer than they do,’ and that’s what we did today, is play harder and longer than they did.”