Running back Brandon Simmons scores a touchdown on a 28-yard run against Kentucky (AP).
Jan. 2, 2009
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)--Ventrell Jenkins scooped up a fumble and barreled his 285-pound frame 56 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, helping Kentucky win a program-best third straight bowl game with a 25-19 victory over East Carolina on Friday in the Liberty Bowl.
Kentucky (7-6) never led until the fourth quarter, when Myron Pryor forced a fumble with about 3 minutes left. In the scramble for the loose ball, Jenkins came up with it and rumbled down the right sideline untouched for the touchdown.
Lones Seiber's extra point attempt was blocked--the third blocked extra point of the game and second off Seiber's foot.
That gave East Carolina (9-5) plenty of time to drive for the win, but the ensuing kickoff was downed at the 1. The Pirates wound up punting four plays later, and Kentucky picked up a first down before running out the clock.
The victory, which came on the heels of two straight wins in the Music City Bowl behind record-setting quarterback Andre Woodson, gave Rich Brooks a distinction in Kentucky history that even Bear Bryant couldn't claim. Bryant was the only other Wildcats coach to lead the team to three straight bowls, but he only won two of them.
Coming off its first Conference USA championship, East Carolina jumped to a 16-3 halftime lead before failing in its attempt to win a third game this season against a team from a BCS conference. It had already defeated West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Jenkins was elected the game's Most Valuable Player, but it nearly could have been teammate Micah Johnson getting the nod for what appeared to be his own fumble-return TD. An official review determined East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney was sacked on the play by Memphis native Jeremy Jarmon, so the Pirates retained possession.
Even before that, the Wildcats' defense missed another chance at a game-breaking play in the fourth quarter when Sam Maxwell's interception deep in East Carolina territory was negated by a holding penalty on teammate Winston Guy.
Kentucky saved virtually all its magic for the second half, in every aspect of the game.
David Jones took the second-half kickoff a Liberty Bowl-record 99 yards for a touchdown.
Minutes later, quarterback Mike Hartline, starting for injured freshman Randall Cobb, gave Kentucky its lone offensive TD when he hit Kyrus Lanxter on a crossing pattern for a 19-yard touchdown that tied the game 16-all midway through the third quarter.
Hartline completed 19 of 31 passes for 204 yards and one interception.
Pinkney finished 18-of-36 for 297 yards for East Carolina, most of it going to Davon Drew and Darryl Freeney. Drew caught five passes for 120 yards, and Freeney had five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown.