Dec 30, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; General view during the first half between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Memphis Tigers in the 2017 Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Each day leading up to Iowa State’s season opener against South Dakota State, Cyclone Fanatic will check another day off the calendar with a memorable statistic, player or game as part of our Countdown to Kickoff presented by Tailgate Clothing.
When Iowa State stepped on the field at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis last December, they were doing so to play in the 13th bowl game in program history. The Cyclones’ 21-20 win over Memphis gave the school its fourth bowl win and first since the 2009 Insight Bowl win over Minnesota, which ironically was also decided by one-point.
Iowa State’s first bowl game appearance came in 1971 when Johnny Majors led his squad into El Paso, Texas, to take on LSU in the Sun Bowl, losing 33-15 in the Texas heat. The Cyclones returned to a bowl game the next season, making their first appearance in the Liberty Bowl, but once again losing, this time to Georgia Tech.
Five years passed before Iowa State returned to postseason play when Earle Bruce’s 1977 team went Atlanta to square off with NC State in the Peach Bowl. Again, the Cyclones lost. They did the same thing the next season when they took on Texas A&M in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
It was 22 years before Iowa State qualified for another bowl game. During that span, the Cyclones had five different head coaches before Dan McCarney’s 2000 team regarded as the best in school history advanced to the Insight Bowl and gave the program its first bowl win, a 37-29 besting of Pittsburgh in Phoenix.
The Insight Bowl win began a stretch of five bowl games in six seasons for the Cyclones with the only other win coming in the 2004 Independence Bowl over Miami (OH).
Iowa State’s next bowl was that Insight Bowl win in 2009, Paul Rhoads’ first season as the program’s head coach. He led the Cyclones to two more postseason appearances in 2011 and 2012 but never came home with another win.
Hopefully, the Cyclones won’t have to wait too long before they are able to add bowl win No. 5 to the trophy case in Ames.