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Kentucky rallies past East Carolina in Liberty Bowl

Jan 3, 2009 - 4:18 AM MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Rich Brooks thought he had seen it all in his 32 years of coaching.

That's why the Kentucky head coach was so stunned by the final five minutes of Friday's Liberty Bowl, which concluded with a historic win for the Wildcats.

Ventrell Jenkins scored on a 56-yard fumble return late in the fourth quarter to complete Kentucky's wild 25-19 comeback victory over East Carolina.

With the score tied, Kentucky appeared to take the lead with four minutes remaining when East Carolina's Patrick Pinkney lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Micah Johnson.

But the score was nullified when replays showed that Pinkney had a knee on the ground before losing possession of the ball.

The potentially crippling reversal did not deter the Wildcats, however, as Norman Whitley - replacing the injured Pinkney - was sacked and fumbled just two plays later. Jenkins, a 285-pound defensive tackle, picked up the loose ball with one hand and rumbled into the end zone to give Kentucky the lead for good.

"I've never seen two back-to-back scores after one was called back on defense," said the 67-year-old Brooks, who has coached the Wildcats to three straight winning seasons. "That was a great effort by our defense."

Lones Seiber's ensuing extra point was blocked, keeping Kentucky's lead at 25-19.

It was the school-record third consecutive bowl win for the Wildcats (7-6), who erased a 16-3 halftime deficit to shock the Pirates (9-5) - the Conference USA champions.

"It is significant," Brooks said. "I'm very proud of these young men, the whole group of seniors. They accomplished something historic.

"It just means so much that now we're three times in the postseason - won all three. I'm not happy with being 7-6; I'd rather be much higher than that. But this is as good as it gets for us to come back and battle like that."

Tony Dixon ran for 89 yards while David Jones scored on a 99-yard kickoff return to ignite the comeback for Kentucky, which played without injured quarterback Randall Cobb.

Mike Hartline, starting in place of Cobb, completed 19-of-31 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception despite playing the entire contest with flu-like symptoms.

"Mike Hartline, battling the flu, had a lot of courage tonight," Brooks said. "I'm really proud of our football team."

Pinkney passed for 296 yards and a TD for East Carolina, which failed to complete its first 10-win season since 1991.

Kentucky forged a 16-16 tie midway through the third quarter when Hartline found Kyrus Lanxter for a 19-yard TD.

The Pirates reclaimed the lead at 19-16 when Ben Hartman drilled a 43-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter. But Seiber made a 34-yarder just 53 seconds into the final quarter, setting the stage for the wild finish.






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    Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19  FinalJan 15 1:27 AM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    KENTUCKY 0 3 13 9 25
    EAST CAROLINA 3 13 3 0 19 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - FG, BEN HARTMAN 22 YD, 9:36. EAST
    CAROLINA 3-0
    2ND QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - TD, BRANDON SIMMONS 28 YD RUN (BEN
    HARTMAN KICK), 0:46. EAST
    CAROLINA 10-

    Jan 2 8:30 PM
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    RUWTbot Added 22 roots (Close Finish)

    Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19  4th - 2:27Jan 2 8:25 PM
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    Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19  4th - 2:34Jan 2 8:24 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD KENTUCKY
    VENTRELL JENKINS 56 YD FUMBLE RETURN
    (PAT BLOCKED)
    KENTUCKY 25
    EAST CAROLINA 19 3:02 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19  4th - 3:02Jan 2 8:15 PM
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    Kentucky 19, East Carolina 19  4th - 5:22Jan 2 8:05 PM
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    Kentucky 19, East Carolina 19  4th - 8:32Jan 2 8:00 PM
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    Kentucky 19, East Carolina 19  4th - 8:32Jan 2 7:58 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG KENTUCKY
    LONES SEIBER 34 YD
    KENTUCKY 19
    EAST CAROLINA 19 14:07 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Kentucky 19, East Carolina 19  4th - 14:07Jan 2 7:34 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    KENTUCKY 0 3 13 16
    EAST CAROLINA 3 13 3 19 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - FG, BEN HARTMAN 22 YD, 9:36. EAST
    CAROLINA 3-0
    2ND QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - TD, BRANDON SIMMONS 28 YD RUN (BEN
    HARTMAN KICK), 0:46. EAST
    CAR

    Jan 2 7:27 PM
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    Kentucky 16, East Carolina 16  3rd - 1:04Jan 2 7:25 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG EAST CAROLINA
    BEN HARTMAN 43 YD
    KENTUCKY 16
    EAST CAROLINA 19 0:06 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Kentucky 16, East Carolina 19  3rd - 0:06Jan 2 7:25 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD KENTUCKY
    KYRUS LANXTER 19 YD PASS FROM MIKE HARTLINE
    (LONES SEIBER KICK)
    KENTUCKY 16
    EAST CAROLINA 16 8:13 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Kentucky 16, East Carolina 16  3rd - 8:13Jan 2 7:07 PM
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    Kentucky 9, East Carolina 16  3rd - 14:48Jan 2 6:51 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD KENTUCKY
    DAVID JONES 99 YD KICKOFF RETURN
    (PAT BLOCKED)
    KENTUCKY 9
    EAST CAROLINA 16 14:48 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Kentucky 9, East Carolina 16  3rd - 14:48Jan 2 6:48 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    KENTUCKY 0 3 3
    EAST CAROLINA 3 13 16 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - FG, BEN HARTMAN 22 YD, 9:36. EAST
    CAROLINA 3-0
    2ND QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - TD, BRANDON SIMMONS 28 YD RUN (BEN
    HARTMAN KICK), 0:46. EAST
    CAROLIN

    Jan 2 6:23 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD EAST CAROLINA
    DARRYL FREENEY 80 YD PASS FROM PATRICK PINKNEY
    (PAT BLOCKED)
    KENTUCKY 3
    EAST CAROLINA 16 8:47 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Kentucky 3, East Carolina 16  2nd - 8:47Jan 2 5:57 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG KENTUCKY
    LONES SEIBER 21 YD
    KENTUCKY 3
    EAST CAROLINA 10 8:59 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Kentucky 3, East Carolina 10  2nd - 8:59Jan 2 5:52 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    TD EAST CAROLINA
    BRANDON SIMMONS 28 YD RUN
    (BEN HARTMAN KICK)
    KENTUCKY 0
    EAST CAROLINA 10 14:14 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Kentucky 0, East Carolina 10  2nd - 14:14Jan 2 5:41 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    KENTUCKY 0 0
    EAST CAROLINA 3 3 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: EAST CAROLINA - FG, BEN HARTMAN 22 YD, 9:36. EAST
    CAROLINA 3-0

    Jan 2 5:35 PM


  • LIBERTY BOWL
    AT MEMPHIS TN
    NCAAF LIBERTY BOWL
    FG EAST CAROLINA
    BEN HARTMAN 22 YD
    KENTUCKY 0
    EAST CAROLINA 3 5:24 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Kentucky 0, East Carolina 3  1st - 5:24Jan 2 5:21 PM
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    Kentucky vs. East CarolinaJan 2 10:47 AM
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    Kentucky vs. East CarolinaJan 2 7:48 AM
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    Kentucky vs. East CarolinaDec 31 10:52 PM