East Carolina to take on Kentucky in Liberty Bowl
Published 2:37 pm Monday, December 8, 2008
By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
MEMPHIS — All summer long, East Carolina's players talked about getting to the 10-win plateau this season.
Now they've got that chance.
Standing in the way of the Pirates' goal will be the Kentucky Wildcats, who will take on the recently crowned Conference USA champions in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl's Golden Anniversary Game on Friday, January 2, 2009.
The game will start at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
"We are excited about the opportunity to represent Conference USA in the 50th Anniversary of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl," East Carolina Head Coach Skip Holtz said. "It's going to be a phenomenal trip. This is what we've talked about beginning with the first day of practice – the road to Memphis and what we've got to do to get there. I can't tell you how excited we are as a program and as a university to be there. It's a fitting reward for the team and the fans, because they put it out there on the line too."
East Carolina (9-4) will be making its third appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Pirates earned their spot in the game after defeating Tulsa 27-24 Saturday to win their first conference title in 32 years.
East Carolina played in the 1994 and 1995 AutoZone Liberty Bowl games. It lost to Illinois in 1994, and defeated Stanford in 1995.
Kentucky (6-6) will be making its first appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The bowl trip to Memphis marks a return trip to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl for Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks, who played in the game for Oregon State in 1962.
"It's great that we're playing in the 50th anniversary of a game that I actually played in when the game originated in Philadelphia," said Brooks. "I think it's an honor to play a conference champion, particularly one that was as hot to start the season as East Carolina was, and the way they finished the year will be a great test for our program."
The Pirates and Wildcats have faced off once previously as Kentucky posted a 6-3 victory on Nov. 13, 1993 in Lexington.
East Carolina will face an SEC opponent for the first time since 1999. The Pirates beat South Carolina 21-3 that season.