First off, a big acknowledgment for the excellent play of the East Carolina Pirates. They were all the team we could have handled, and we barely were up to the challenge. It was nip and tuck all the way, and the Pirates never gave up. Some very interesting circumstances made this one a game I will never forget. But the Pirates have no need to hang their heads -- they easily could have won this game, and arguably played better football overall.
But all that aside, this is truly a great victory for Kentucky, and it turned out to be one of the most exciting and ... well, wild games I have ever witnessed. Nobody who saw this game could have been anything but excited, and both teams played very hard. There were some huge hits in this game by both teams. It was a great college football game.
Regarding the return for touchdown by
Jarmon Jenkins, I don't think you can be deemed to have possession while the ball is in contact with the ground, as it was when his knee was down. Not sure about that, so you armchair officials might need to correct me on that perception, but I believe that was why Jarmon Jenkins wasn't considered down on the fumble recovery. The Micah Johnson touchdown, in my view, was incorrectly called back. There was no way that the officials could conclusively determine whether the ball was still in Pinkney's hand when his knee hit the ground. Either way, it is over now.
In the end, I have to give Hartline a lot of credit. Despite having his usual problem throwing balls too high, he got that under control in the second half and made some great throws, really clutch. The one exception was that unacceptable throw into triple coverage on the ill-advised fleaflicker, especially when he had a man wide open over the middle.
Tony Dixon was just relentless, and he totally deserved his player of the game recognition. I thought he had poor vision in the first half and could have done more had he simply kept his head up, but in the second half he did a much better job. The punters for both teams were excellent, but East Carolina's punter was truly incredible, hitting some of the longest punts I have seen in many years in a college game.
For Rich Brooks, you can only praise the adjustments that the team made after the half. Of course, the remarkable David Jones touchdown return of the second-half kickoff had a lot to do with making Brooks look good, and completely reversed the momentum from the first half, which was clearly with the Pirates. I thought our defensive secondary was simply great in the second half, and Micah Johnson was a force of nature, flying around the field like a Tasmanian Devil.
I have to admit, I am much happier for this team than I was for the team last year. That team had no excuse to lose, and they didn't. This one had every excuse to give up and lose, and they refused to do so. That means a lot to me, and I hope to all of you.
Congratulations, Wildcats. Nobly won, and well earned!