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The 50th Annual Liberty Bowl’s Friday News and Views

Well, my good friends, here we are.  It’s January 2, 2009 and our beloved Kentucky football team will be taking the field for a bowl game for the third year in a row.  It’s something that hasn’t been done since a guy nicknamed “Bear” roamed the sidelines and, if the Cats win, it will be the first time in the school history that it’s been done.  So, with that in mind, let’s throw basketball to the side momentarily as we give you a quick little primer (it’s way past my bedtime) for tonight’s 50th Annual Autozone Liberty Bowl.

Gametime:   5 pm
Television:  ESPN
Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 57, 5 mph winds
Odds: ECU is favored by 3 and the over/under is 47

Three Names to know:

1.  Patrick Pinkney (QB) – The play of the 5th-year senior from Fayettville, N.C. somewhat mirrored the fortunes of the East Carolina team as he had three outstanding games to start the year before watching his play slip in three subsequent losses.  Following that three-game losing streak, Pinkney was benched in favor of junior Rob Kass.  Since returning as starter, Pinkney has guided the Pirates to a 4-1 record, throwing for about 200 yards per game and racking up 5 TDs to 4 INTs.  He’s very mobile, but often chooses to force a pass instead of tucking the ball and running it.

2.  Van Eskridge (S) – Eskridge is the most dynamic player on the very good ECU defense and anchors the secondary for the Pirates.  He made 89 tackles from his safety position and also picked off four passes and forced two fumbles.  Eskridge is very strong against the run and his versatility will allow the Pirates to give UK different looks on defense. 

3.  C.J. Wilson (DE) – The junior defensive end leads the team in sacks with 10.5 and 18.5 of his 64 total tackles were for a loss.  Wilson and Zack Slate, who lines up on the opposite end of the defensive line, will be rushing after Mike Hartline the entire game and the way the offensive line handles the pass rush will be very important.  Wilson also likes to play piano and dance.

Three Things to Expect

1.  Lots and lots of Tony Dixon – If Kentucky is going to beat the C-USA champs, it’s going to be with a hard-nosed, low-scoring, only pretty if you really love football kind of game.  And, for that to happen, that means you’re going to see a lot of #28 burning the clock and, hopefully, moving the chains.  With Derrick Locke injured and Moncell Allen academically ineligible, Mr. Dixon will be the go-to guy in his final game as a Cat.  For a player who has battled injuries or criticism from fans during much of his career, a solid game in a bowl game victory sure would be sweet.

2.  Something Tricky – Ever heard the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s tools”?  Well, idle weeks are a special teamer’s dream and Rich Brooks and his staff have shown that they aren’t afraid to live on the edge a little and try to hit a home run with a trick play.  Add this to the fact that the offense has looked very rough (and that’s being polite) and ECU has a strong defense, and I’d say the chances are high that there might be a gamble made to put some points on the board and some pep in the step of the Cats.

3.  Notre Dame chatter – Why would the Fighting Irish be even remotely relevant during a Kentucky-East Carolina telecast?  Well, they won’t be.  But, if this game turns into the defensive dogfight that we’re all expecting, then you can expect some space filler talk about Notre Dame seeing as how former coach Bob Davie is calling the game and Lou Holtz’ son is coaching ECU.  And you never thought you’d put away your Charlie Weis fat jokes until next season…

Other things of random interest

 – Rich Brooks has tabbed tackle Garry Williams and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon to serve as honorary captains alongside usual captains Tony Dixon and Braxton Kelley

 – Kentucky is expected to bring 10-15,000 fans to the Liberty Bowl, which is down from the estimated 50,000 at the Music City Bowl each of the past two years

 – For those of you that have made the trip to Memphis, the Catwalk will begin at 1:45 pm Central time and will take place at Gate 4.  The team buses will enter on Mississippi Avenue

 – The Wildcat seniors have been blogging this week at UKAthletics.com.  And, for those of you missing those “Daily Dicky” videos, there is one on there from Mr. Lyons

 – Both teams enter the games on streaks, but of opposite kinds.  UK has lost 4 of 5 and 6 of 8 while ECU has won 6 of their last 7 contests 

– While both teams bring a good defense to the game, neither offense is particularly great.  ECU is 83rd in the nation in total yards and UK is 100th.  They are very similar in points per game though as UK averages 22.4 (90th) and ECU averages 23.8 (87th)

 – UK punter Tim Masthay will be a part of a half-time feature during tonight’s Sugar Bowl contest.  The Allstate Good Works team is officially announced during the intermission and Masthay was one of 11 players named to the squad

 – This is Kentucky’s first Liberty Bowl appearance, but the second trip for Rich Brooks.  He was a part of the Oregon State team that beat Villanova in the fourth Liberty Bowl in 1962.

– Todd McShay hates Kentucky and all the good, wholesome things that it stands for:

Well, that’s it for now.  We’ll get a little more in-depth as the day moves on and we watch our boys try to lock down that third straight bowl win and a winning season.  Stay tuned throughout the day for more Liberty Bowl info (and a little U of L stuff too) capped off with a Liberty Bowl LiveBlog with the whole KSR crew.  We’ll see you in a few…

Article written by Thomas Beisner