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Beale Street Blue

MEMPHIS — Football fans from Kentucky and East Carolina packed Beale Street for the Liberty Bowl parade Thursday.

"We came with a lot of fans from Kentucky," said UK graduate Tim Crawford. "UK fans go anywhere the Wildcats go, whether we are having a good year or bad one."

Perhaps not all UK fans. After consecutive trips to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the Kentucky crowd at Friday's game is expected to be considerably smaller.

"It seems obvious we are not going to fill the stadium with as much blue as we had the past two years in Nashville," Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks said Thursday. "I'm sure the fans we do have here will be very supportive."

The trip to the Liberty Bowl is UK's first, and the fans that have followed the team to Memphis have made the most of the experience.

"I'm what you call true blue," said attorney Rusty Cress of Lexington. "I haven't missed a home game since I was 10 years old."

The Wildcats won their first four games of the season, but dropped their last three — to Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee — to finish 6-6.

"Losing those games was tough," said James Foster of Lexington, who said he has supported UK football for 30 years. "But with coach Rich Brooks leading our team I'm sure we're going to have a good showing against East Carolina."

A Liberty Bowl win would help the Cats end the season on a high note, just as they've done the past two seasons with Music City Bowl victories over Clemson in 2006 and Florida State in 2007.

"This program is headed in the right direction," said Martin Creech of Corbin, "We have been hurt with injuries on both sides of the ball, but now we have our defense back 100 percent."