The three consecutive bowl bids marked the first time since 1949, 1950 and 1951 teams participated in bowl games.
The win marked the first time in the 118 year history of Kentucky football that the Wildcats won bowls in three consecutive seasons. All three wins came in the state of Tennessee, as the Cats defeated Clemson and Florida State in Nashville’s Music City Bowl the previous two seasons. The Liberty Bowl is held annually in Memphis.
Kentucky is 20-12 since the debacle at the hands of LSU in midseason 2006, when many were calling for a midseason coaching change at Kentucky.
Kentucky’s fourth quarter comeback was its ninth in the last thirty-one games. This is a huge turnabout for a team that used to seem to manufacture ways to lose games at the end.
Kentucky notched its seventh win of the year. The last time UK won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons was 1949-50-51.
The kickoff return TD by David Jones marked the first time in school history that two Wildcats returned a kickoff for a TD in the same season. Derrick Locke, who was lost for season with a knee injury, had a 100-yard TD return vs. Western Kentucky.
The Kentucky defense could have been the star of the game. The Wildcats D held East Carolina to 3-of-15 on third downs. The defense gave up only a single field goal to ECU in the second half.
The UK defense scored the game-winning touchdown, though some fans may consider that the UK defense scored the game-winning touchdown twice, after the questionable revocation of the Micah Johnson TD after an official review. The Wildcats a season-high seven pass breakups, this comes despite having to play a lot of youngsters in the secondary, particularly when both Trevard Lindley and David Jones were on the bench nursing injuries after being taken off the field.
Coach Rich Brooks celebrated his 32nd victory as head coach of the Wildcats, tying him for fifth place on the UK career win list. This was at one time unfathomable, especially following the 2006 game in Baton Rouge.
Kentucky senior defensive end Ventrell Jenkins was selected the Most Valuable Player of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, doubtlessly aided by 56-yard rumble for the game winning TD on the fourth quarter fumble return. The senior also had had four tackles and was credited with a blocked extra point.
Sophomore QB Mike Hartline was named Kentucky’s Offensive Most Valuable Player. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown; and had one pass picked off.
Senior linebacker Braxton Kelley, who sealed last season’s win over eventual national champion LSU with a huge stop, was Kentucky’s Most Valuable Defensive Player. Kelley finished his UK career with a team-high eight tackles, including one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Kelley finished his career with 25 consecutive games with at least three tackles. He had 287 career tackles.
Senior running back Tony Dixon’s 28 carries set a new career-high; his 89 yards was also a season high. Among the most important of the 28 carries were the six runs to pick up a pair of first downs and run out the clock to clinch the victory for the Cats. Dixon finished his career with 1,388 rushing yards, moving him into 18th place on the UK career rushing list.
A bright spot for next season may have been the play of sophomore wide receiver Kyrus Lanxter. Lanxter had career highs with five catches for 46 yards and his first Wildcat touchdown.
Another young wide receiver also impressed, as freshman wide receiver Euene McCaskill set career highs with three catches for 64 yards, including a UK-best 48-yard play. He also handled punt returns for the first time as a Wildcat, returning three for 19 yards.
Lanxter, McCaskill and Randall Cobb should give the UK staff a nice core of young receivers to build the pro style offense around next season.
Lones Seiber made two field goals, of 21 and 34 yards. The two field goals give him 38, moving the kicker past Taylor Begley for second place on the UK career field-goal list. His one made PAT kick, gives him 118 in his career; tying him with Begley for second place in UK history.
Wildcat junior defensive end Jeremy Jarmon had one sack, giving him 17.5 sacks in his career and placing him in third place on the UK career sack list.
Myron Pryor, a senior defensive tackle, played his final game for the Cats, and finished with a career-high seven tackles, including one tackle for loss. Pryor caused the fumble that Ventrell Jenkins returned for the game-winning touchdown, and also had a pass breakup.
Freshman cornerback Randall Burden, having his best game as a Wildcat, and safety Calvin Harrison set new career highs with two pass breakups each.
Strong legged Tim Masthay finished his career with a school-record 50 games played. The old record was 48 games played by Jacob Tamme and Roger Williams. Masthay had a solid performance in his final game as a Wildcat. The senior averaged 44.6 yards on five punts, he also nailed three touchbacks on kickoffs.
Wildcat fans bid farewell to twenty-one Wildcats, who played their final game at Kentucky. Included in the 21 are 16 seniors and five juniors who are giving up their final year of eligibility.
Kentucky’s two made field goals ties the UK record for made field goals in a bowl game. This squad shares the record with the teams that played in the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl, 1993 Peach Bowl and 1999 Music City Bowl.
UK ran a well-timed pitch to Alfonso Smith to begin the fourth quarter that went for 38 yards. The rush was a career long for the UK speedster.
The Cats finished the game without an interception, but it was not due to lack of effort or opportunity. With 10:09 left Sam Maxwell intercepted a Patrick Pinkney pass, however it was called back after UK’s Winston Guy, a freshman, was flagged for defensive holding.
Mike Hartline found Eric Adeyemi for a first-down completion, a When Johnny Williams and Myron Pryor stopped up a Norman Whitley rush for a loss of three yards, forcing a fumble that Ventrell Jenkins scooped up the ball and returned it for a 56-yard touchdown (giving UK the 25-19 lead). The return by Jenkins marked the second longest fumble recovery for a touchdown in Liberty Bowl history.
After an official review following the Jenkins TD an official review ruled that J.R. Rogers was down at the one yard line when he caught Masthay’s kickoff. A Pinkney pass completion led to a quick ECU first down on its first play of the drive. On first and ten Randall Burden broke up a pass, his first breakup of the game. 2:52 remained. Burden followed that breakup with another on the next play; this one came on a slant route and forced a third and 10. On third down ECU attempted to run a fly route down its sideline, but the good coverage by David Jones led to the incompletion, setting up a fourth and 12 with 2:44 left. Skip Holtz elected to punt, and six doses of Dixon later the Cats were Liberty Bowl champs.