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NCAA Game Summary - Kentucky vs. East Carolina

(Friday, January 2nd)

Final Score: Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19

Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - Ventrell Jenkins' 56-yard fumble return with 3:02 remaining in the game lifted the Kentucky Wildcats to a 25-19 come-from- behind victory over the East Carolina Pirates in the Liberty Bowl.

Mike Hartline threw a touchdown pass and David Jones registered a Liberty Bowl-record 99-yard kickoff return for the Wildcats (7-6), who notched a school-best third consecutive postseason win. The program won the Music City Bowl the last two years, defeating Clemson and Florida State, respectively.

Hartline finished 19-of-31 for 204 yards and overcame an interception, while Tony Dixon had 89 yards rushing in the victory.

Darryl Freeney hauled in an 80-yard touchdown and Brandon Simmons added a 28- yard TD run for the Pirates (9-5), who topped Tulsa on December 6th to capture the Conference USA title.

Pat Pinkney completed 18-of-36 passes for 296 yards with one TD for East Carolina.

Jones ignited a 13-point comeback in the third quarter, returning the opening kickoff of the second half to shrink the deficit to 16-9 following a blocked extra point.

Later in the stanza, ECU was backed up at its own goal line and Kentucky's defense forced a three-and-out. Gene McCaskill returned the subsequent punt 14 yards to the ECU 26, and Kyrus Lanxter hauled in a 19-yard TD with 8:13 remaining.

Ben Hartman drilled a 43-yard field goal in the frame's dying seconds to restore the lead for the Pirates, but Kentucky's Lones Seiber countered by hammering a 34-yarder 53 seconds into the fourth quarter.

With 4 1/2 minutes to go in the game, Kentucky's Jeremy Jarmon wrapped up Pinkney at the ECU 16 and stripped the football. Micah Johnson scooped it up and rumbled to the end zone for what appeared to be an 18-yard score. However, the ruling on the field was overturned after a video review revealed that the Pirates signal-caller's left knee was down.

ECU then came up with a huge conversion on 3rd-and-14, as Pinkney hooked up with Davon Drew behind the Kentucky secondary for a 40-yard completion. Two plays later, Norman Whitley lost the handle and Jenkins recovered the loose ball and stiff-armed Pinkney en route to the end zone.

A costly mistake on the ensuing kickoff pinned ECU at its own one after an official review ruled that the returner's knee had touched the ground while catching the ball. The Pirates were then forced to punt and Kentucky ran out the clock.

After Hartman booted a 22-yard field goal with 5:24 remaining in the opening quarter, Simmons capped a six-play crusade that originated from the East Carolina 34 with a 28-yard scamper to the end zone early in the second frame for a 10-0 Pirates lead.

Set up by a 48-yard completion from Hartline to McCaskill, Seiber, who missed a 51-yarder in the final minute of the first quarter, was true from 21 yards out to put Kentucky on the board with 8:59 left in the frame, then ECU responded on the first play of the ensuing series as Pinkney hit a wide- open Freeney in stride down the right sideline for an 80-yard score. The Wildcats blocked the extra point and trailed 16-3 at halftime.

Game Notes

Drew and Freeney both caught five passes for 120 and 112 yards, respectively...McCaskill had 64 yards on three receptions...Kentucky is 8-5 all-time in bowl games...The Pirates are 8-7 all-time in the postseason.

01/02 21:35:46 ET

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