Kentucky takes Liberty Bowl Championship

The Kentucky Wildcats have won three consecutive bowl games for the first time in their history. The record setting victory didn't come without adversity. The Wildcats needed a second half comeback, and had to overcome in-game injuries in order to become the 2009 Auto Zone Liberty Bowl Champions.

Rich Brooks and Kentucky squad went to the lockerroom at the conclusion of the first half with a 16-3 deficit to C-USA champion East Carolina University. A first half of lackluster play by Kentucky's injury depleted roster was not reflected by its play in the second half.

The second half scoring began with a David Jones 99 yard record setting kickoff return to jumpstart the Wildcats, and concluded with Ventrell Jenkins rumbling 56 yards after scooping up a Myron Pryor forced East Carolina fumble for the game winning

touchdown. The Jones run pulled the Cats to within 16-9, and a blocked Lonas Sieber PAT left the Cats down seven, with nearly an entire half yet to play.

The Jenkins fumble recovery and TD was reviewed, just as a fumble recovery and TD return by Kentucky's Micah Johnson had been reviewed moments earlier. Unlike the Johnson touchdown the Jenkins TD withstood an official review, giving Kentucky its first lead of the game, 25-19. The Seiber PAT was blocked for a second time, leaving the Cats vulnerable to loss if East Carolina could score in the final 3:02.

Following the Jenkins TD ECU's J.R. Rogers appeared to have returned the ball to the 25-yard line; however, a review by the officials resulted in Rogers being ruled down at the one, as his knee was on the ground as he caught the ball.

Patrick Pinkney appeared to get the Pirates rolling when he hit Davon Drew for an 11 yard gain on the first play in the shadows of the goal post. It would be Pinkney's final completion, as the UK defense clamped down and forced three incomplete passes by Pinkney, forcing ECU to punt the ball to the Cats.

There was 2:34 remaining in the game when the Wildcats' offense took the field. Tony Dixon ran the ball for the final six plays of the game, collecting two first downs along the way to seal the Kentucky victory.

Field position played a role in the Cats other scores of the half, as the Cats found themselves with good field position and took advantage.

Midway through the third quarter the Cats tied the game at 16 when Mike Hartline connected with Kyrus Lanxter for a 19 yard TD, capping a three play 26 yard drive. With only six seconds remaining in the third quarter the Pirates recaptured the lead when Ben Hartman nailed a 43 yard field goal, capping a 77 yard drive. It would be ECU's only score of the half.

Fifty-three seconds into the fourth quarter the Wildcats tied the game again at 19, when Seiber hit a 34 yard field goal to conclude a five play 38 yard Kentucky drive, all 38 yards came on a run by Alfonso Smith after John Conner's 17 yard return of Matt Dodge's 41 yard kickoff; which ended the third quarter.

After a rough start Mike Hartline settled down and finished the game with 19 completions on 31 attempts. Hartline spread the ball around as eight different Wildcats had at least one reception. Lanxter, a sophomore, led the young receiving corps with five receptions for 46 yards; freshman Eugene McCaskell had three receptions for a team high 64 yards. Eric Adeyemi had two receptions for 31 yards.

Dixon caught the ball three times out of the backfield for 17 yards; Alfonso Smith had three receptions for 11 yards; and even fullback John Conner got in on the action out of the backfield had one reception for four yard.

T.C. Drake and Maurice Grinter had catches of 16 and 15 yards from the tight end spot.

Tony Dixon was the workhorse out of the backfield for the Cats, carrying the ball 28 times for 89 yards.

Senior Tim Masthay concluded his Kentucky career with five punts which averaged 44.6 yards.

Trevard Lindley, Kentucky's All American cornerback, watched the final quarter from the sidelines, after hyperextending his elbow breaking up a potential ECU touchdown in the end zone. Ventrell Jenkins was named the games MVP and Hartline the games most outstanding offensive players.

Jenkins, Jeremy Jarmon, Micah Johnson and Braxton Kelley all had excellent halves for the Wildcats and led the front seven's defensive effort for the Cats.

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