Kudos to the Big Blue Mist. While it was estimated that the number of UK fans traveling to Memphis for Friday's Liberty Bowl wouldn't be more than 10,000, I'd say that number approached 25,000. Despite the economy and despite the destination, Kentucky fans continue to impress when it comes to following this team.
Kudos to Rich Brooks. The legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant is the most successful coach ever to walk the sidelines in Lexington, but now Brooks has one-upped the Bear -- UK has won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history. And for the first time since the Bear's boys did it in 1949-50-51, the Wildcats have won 7 games in back-to-back-to-back seasons. To think just a few years ago, UK fans wanted Brooks fired.
Kudos to Mike Hartline. While he threw for only 204 yards in UK's win over East Carolina, Hartline managed the game very well, despite battling a stomach virus that sent him sprinting to the locker room several times during the game. The sophomore was named UK's Most Valuable Player in the game. The much-maligned quarterback finished his first season with a 6-3 record as a starter.
Kudos to David Jones. The tough-luck cornerback is one of my favorite Wildcats. Jones isn't the swiftest Wildcat, nor the biggest, but plays his rear off whenever he's on the field. His 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half gave the Wildcats confidence and momentum. Jones' return set a Liberty Bowl record and it was the first of his career.
It's ironic that it came in his last game as a Wildcat. The senior from Red Jacket, W.Va. told me afterwards that the last time he returned a kickoff for a score was in the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star football game. Jones said Jeremy Jarmon was a star on that Tennessee All-Star team.
Kudos to Ventrell Jenkins. Another very likeable Wildcat, Jenkins' fourth quarter fumble return for a score proved to be the game winner.
Jarmon battles fatigue and illness
Mike Hartline wasn't the only Wildcat playing with flu-like symptoms. Junior defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, who was returning to his hometown of Memphis, needed fluids after the game. Jarmon was late getting to postgame interviews because he was being treated with an IV.
Jarmon finished with three tackles, including one quarterback sack.
Cats await NFL grades
Jarmon, along with Micah Johnson and Trevard Lindley, will receive word this week from the NFL about their draft status. The trio of juniors had requested the NFL Draft Advisory Board for evaluations on where they might be selected in the upcoming draft.
Johnson told 27 SportsFirst that if his evaluation projected him as a second- or third-round pick, he'd have to discuss his draft options with family and coaches, and seriously consider leaving school. The bet here is that Johnson likely would enter the draft.
Lindley suffered a hyperextended elbow during UK's win over East Carolina. While the injury isn't considered to be serious, Lindley said after the game that wouldn't play into his draft decison.
Former Cats attend Liberty Bowl
It's always good to see former Wildcats gravitate back to their roots. On Friday, Shane Boyd, Rafael Little and Glenn Holt roamed the UK sideline, watching the Cats upend East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.
Little appeared to be in great shape. After signing a free agent deal with the Titans, Little sat out the season while recovering from knee surgery. Little is expected to be in camp with Tennessee when the season begins in 2009.
Holt just finished his fourth year with the Cincinnati Bengals. I asked if his team was in disarray. Holt said he was confident that the Bengals' fortunes soon would turn. Holt expects coach Marvin Lewis to return in 2009. He also said receiver Chad Ocho Cinco likely would be back, despite his inability to stay out of the headlines. Holt said he expects the Bengals to sign receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a new deal.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.