MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Arkansas and East Carolina are set to meet
in the Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2, a game Razorbacks coach Bobby
Petrino knows well.
Bowl officials on Sunday confirmed that Arkansas will be the
Southeastern Conference team playing two-time Conference USA champ
East Carolina. It is a return to the postseason for the Razorbacks
(7-5), who lost to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl in January 2008 and
missed out on a bow in Petrino's first season when they went 5-7.
Petrino coached Louisville in the 2004 Liberty Bowl when his
team held off Boise State in a thrilling 44-40 victory.
"I've had the pleasure of coaching in it before, and had a
great experience ... We're looking forward to everybody coming down
and filling up the stadium. I'm excited about the preparation for
the game and our team learning how to prepare for a big bowl game.
We've got a tremendous amount of respect for East Carolina,"
East Carolina wrapped up a second straight visit to Memphis by
upsetting No. 18 Houston 38-32 in the C-USA championship on
Saturday. The Pirates (9-4) are the first C-USA team to win
consecutive league titles since the conference split into
divisional play in 2005, and this will be their fourth trip to the Liberty Bowl.
"Having the chance to return to Memphis after our experience a
year ago makes this trip even more special," coach Skip Holtz
"We're looking forward to the challenge of playing Arkansas, a
program with a great tradition and history out of a conference
which certainly speaks for itself. I know all of us are excited to
be in this position again with another opportunity to perhaps
accomplish something distinctive for this senior class."
The Razorbacks have a strong SEC tradition to uphold. The
conference has won the bowl three straight times with Kentucky
downing East Carolina 25-19 most recently.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long estimated ticket sales at
probably more than 15,000 already for the Razorbacks' fourth trip
to this bowl and first since 1987.
"Fans throughout the state of Arkansas can drive to Memphis and
be a part of the bowl game experience," Long said. "Many times if
we're flying off to Florida or other locations, many of our fans
aren't able to travel to be with us."
This may not be what Arkansas wanted in a season that ended with
a 33-30 overtime loss at LSU.
Senior defensive end and captain Adrian Davis said he feels good
about the Razorbacks fulfilling their goal of earning a bowl
"Speaking for the team, we're excited about the challenge of
playing East Carolina. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to go
to the Liberty Bowl and to end my college career on a good note
with the program heading in the right direction."
Quarterback Ryan Mallett said the Razorbacks will be excited.
"And I know our fans will be there to support us. Our goal now
is to take the next few weeks to focus on preparing for this game
and then go to Memphis to win it. When I was kid, I watched
Arkansas play in big bowl games, and I'm excited to be a part of
that tradition," Mallett said.