With another Kentucky Wildcats football season upon us, the staff at Wildcat Blue Nation are digging into th..."/> With another Kentucky Wildcats football season upon us, the staff at Wildcat Blue Nation are digging into th..."/>

28 Days to Kickoff: 2009 Liberty Bowl


With another Kentucky Wildcats football season upon us, the staff at Wildcat Blue Nation are digging into their memory banks recounting our favorite moments in Wildcat football.  Over the next month, we will be looking at these games and sharing our thoughts and memories on them.  It’s not a countdown, but a look back at what has made Wildcats football important to us and what stood out.  Hopefully Mark Stoops and his staff will be able to add a few more special moments this upcoming season.

Having been born and raised in wonderful state of Kentucky, I have naturally been a University of Kentucky sports fan my entire life.  To have lived in Kentucky my entire life and to be attending the University of Kentucky, my passion for UK sports has only continued to increase.  My passion was ignited as I watched the UK basketball team every year as I was growing up.  I would always be on the edge of my seat as I watched in awe and hoped for championships.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started paying close attention to the UK football team.

I started taking notice of UK football during the 2006 season.  The 2006 season was a spectacular season that forced all of college football to take notice of the Wildcats.  The team finished 8-5 and went on to defeat Clemson in the Music City Bowl, 28-21.  It was a wonderful season considering that prior to 2006, the UK football program only had one winning season since 2000.  The 2006 season came to be a bit of a turning point for the UK football program.

In the early 2000s, UK football had records like 2-9 (2000, 2001, and 2004), 4-8 (2003), and 3-8 (2005).  However, starting with the 2006 season, UK football went on to have four-straight winning seasons with five-straight bowl game appearances (went 6-7 in 2010, but still made it to the BBVA Compass Bowl).  Not only did they have winning seasons and make it to the bowl games, but they also won three of the bowl games.

As previously mentioned, they defeated Clemson in the Music City Bowl in 2006.  In 2007, UK football acquired its second-straight bowl win as they defeated Florida State in the Music City Bowl, 35-28.  Then, amazingly, they captured a third-straight bowl win with a 25-19 victory over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.  Considering the many losing seasons before 2006 and the struggles over recent years, the four-straight winning seasons with five-straight bowl game appearances was quite exciting and incredible.  I would like to recount one of the most memorable games over that time period, the 2009 Liberty Bowl.

The 2009 Liberty Bowl took place on January 2, 2009 with the Kentucky Wildcats taking on the East Carolina.  Even though the regular season was played during the fall of 2008, the Liberty Bowl was played in January of 2009.  Therefore, there technically is no “2008 Liberty Bowl”.  This game displayed many characteristics of the Wildcats that we have now come to expect, whether it be for better or for worse.

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Nothing much was going for UK in the first half.  At halftime they trailed East Carolina by a score of 16-3.  Trailing at halftime is honestly nothing new for UK football fans.  No matter who the team plays, that always seems to be a possibility.  Also, with playing in arguably the toughest conference in all of college football, it’s not much of a surprise that it happens more often than not.  However, there is also another quality that we have come to expect from our beloved Cats.  That is the ability to rally in the second half and complete a comeback.

Despite trailing my a considerable deficit at halftime to the Pirates, all of the stars began to align for UK in the second half.  The Wildcats began their rally in a spectacular way.  Wide receiver David Jones returned the opening second half kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.  Lones Seiber, UK’s kicker, had his PAT blocked after that score.  Then, UK was able to muster another score with a 19-yard pass from Mike Hartline to Kyrus Lanxter for a touchdown.  This tied the score at 16-16.

East Carolina was finally able to answer the Wildcats as they made a field goal to take a 19-16 lead in the closing moments of the third quarter.  Lones Seiber returned the favor on the following UK drive with a field goal of his own, tying the game again.  The nerves continued to build as the minutes ticked off of the game clock.  This was anyone’s game.  Luckily, this game was able to bounce in UK’s favor.  With 3:02 left in the game, UK defensive tackle Ventrell Jenkins recovered a fumble by East Carolina and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown.  Lones Seiber missed the extra point, but it didn’t matter.  UK went on to close the game out as they completed the comeback and won 25-19.

This was an incredible moment that I, and many other UK fans will never forget.  I can remember clearly all of the nerves, anxiety, excitement, and plethora of other emotions that coursed through me throughout that game.  Moments such as these make me incredibly proud to be a UK fan.  I can only hope that moments like this will happen again in the near future for the UK football program.