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Navy Football headed to the Liberty Bowl on December 31st

| December 08, 2019, 04:14 PM

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl announced today that the #21 / #23 Navy Midshipmen (9-2) and the Kansas State Wildcats (8-4) have accepted invitations to play in the 61st AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.  Kickoff is set for 3:45 PM (ET), 2:45 PM local time and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

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“We’re honored to have the United States Naval Academy participate in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl,” said Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.  “Our bowl was founded on the principles of freedom, liberty and patriotism and the Midshipmen live those principles every day. It has been 38 years since Navy played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in 1981 and now, we are so proud to welcome Navy back.”

This marks Navy’s 24th bowl appearance and the 15th in the last 17 years.  Navy’s only appearance in the Liberty Bowl came on Dec. 30, 1981, when the Mids lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State, 31-28.  Navy running back Eddie Meyers was named the game’s most valuable player in that contest.

Navy has won four of its last five bowl games and head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s five bowl wins are the most in school history.

“Congratulations to head coach Ken Niumatalolo and the entire Navy Football program for earning an invitation to this prestigious bowl game, said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk.  “I couldn’t be more pleased and grateful to the Liberty Bowl committee for inviting us to the seventh oldest college bowl game and one of the most tradition-rich and patriotic bowl games in America. My deepest and sincere appreciation to my good friend Steve Ehrhardt. We talked about this possibility for two decades and I’m ecstatic that the stars have finally aligned for Navy to visit this amazing city and bowl game again. We look forward to embracing the community and accentuating our military influence by bringing together our alumni, midshipmen, enlisted personnel and veterans in a manner that exudes patriotism and enthusiasm in the Navy and Marine Corps family.”

“Our players are extremely excited to be invited to a bowl as prestigious as the Liberty Bowl and to have the opportunity to play such a great opponent like Kansas State,” said Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo.  “Going to a bowl game is always one of our top goals, but right now our only focus is to get goal number one and that is to BEAT ARMY and win back the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.”

This will be the first meeting between Navy and Kansas State.  The Mids last played a Big 12 team in the 2009 Texas Bowl when Navy rolled over current SEC member Missouri, 35-13.

The Wildcats finished the regular season with an 8-4 record, which included a 48-41 victory over Oklahoma (12-1).  Kansas State also owns wins over Mississippi State, TCU, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State. The Wildcats are averaging 30.7 points per game, while giving up just 21.5 per contest.  Quarterback Skylar Thompson has passed for 2,191 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Navy fans can purchase tickets to attend the Liberty Bowl or donate tickets right now at or by calling 1-800-US4-NAVY during business hours. Ticket prices are $95 and $85 and the only way to sit with the Navy contingents is to buy your tickets through the Navy ticket office.  $95 tickers are located in sections 101, 102, 106, 107, 108, 109, 131 and 132, while the $85 tickets are located in parts of sections 101 thru 108 and in section 132. Donated tickets are $50 and will be given to either midshipmen or enlisted personnel in the area.

Navy season ticket holders that donate 10 or more tickets will receive 10% off their 2020 season tickets.

Additionally, the Naval Academy class competition will be in effect which includes: 30% off 2020 Navy Football Season Tickets to the class that donates the highest amount of tickets for every member of the class that donates four or more tickets; 25% off 2020 Navy Football Season Tickets to the class that donates the second highest amount of tickets for every member of the class that donates four or more tickets; 20% off 2020 Navy Football Season Tickets to the class that donates the third highest amount of tickets for every member of the class that donates four or more tickets and 10% off 2020 Navy Football Season Tickets for any class that donates 100 or more tickets for every member of that class that donates four or more tickets.

A Bowl Game Tailgate will be held once again and details will be coming soon on how to purchase your tickets.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl game was founded in Philadelphia in 1959 and the inaugural game featured a match-up between Penn State and Alabama. That game began a tradition of great stars and exciting football and was the first of 60 thrilling chapters in the history of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Football Classic.

After five years in Philadelphia, the game moved indoors to Atlantic City Convention Center for one year and in the process became the first indoor college bowl game. Every AutoZone Liberty Bowl since 1965 has been held at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl has enjoyed many highlights through the years. The Bowl has hosted all-time great coaches such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne, Steve Spurrier and Bill Snyder. The Bowl’s history also includes four Heisman Trophy winners (Ernie Davis, Terry Baker, Doug Flutie and Bo Jackson) and other stars such as Archie Manning and Donovan McNabb.

Another proud tradition is the Bowl’s terrific partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which brings together an internationally recognized research facility and a winning college football tradition. St. Jude is dedicated to helping children throughout the world in their fight against catastrophic diseases.

Beginning in 2004, Memphis-based AutoZone, Inc., became the Bowl’s title sponsor.

Memorable Moments in AutoZone Liberty Bowl History

December 19, 1959 – The game marked the beginning of a great bowl tradition and also was the first of 24 consecutive bowl trips for Paul “Bear” Bryant. The game was played at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, PA.

December 15, 1961 – Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis led his Syracuse Orangemen to rally to a 15-14 win over the Miami Hurricanes. Davis was named the game’s Outstanding Back but teammate Dick Easterly won the MVP award.

December 15, 1962 – Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker raced 99 yards with 9:24 left in the first quarter for the game’s only score. The run marked an AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Oregon State record. The mark still stands today.

December 19, 1964 – The inaugural game in Atlantic City, featuring Utah and West Virginia, marked the first time a major college bowl game was held indoors.

December 18, 1965 – Marked the first game held in Memphis, TN, and pitted Ole Miss against Auburn.

December 14, 1968 – Archie Manning led his Ole Miss Rebels to a 34-17 victory over Virginia Tech

December 13, 1969 – Colorado running back Bobby Anderson rushed for an AutoZone Liberty Bowl record 254 yards.

December 18, 1972 – Georgia Tech’s backup quarterback Jim Stevens was named MVP after completing 12 of 15 passes for 157 yards in guiding Georgia Tech to a 31-30 victory over Iowa State.

December 17, 1973 – Lou Holtz and his N.C. State Wolfpack took a 10-10 tie in the 3rd quarter and pushed it to a 31-18 victory over Kansas.

December 20, 1976 – Terry Donahue faced off against Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant’s 16th ranked Crimson Tide dominated Donahue’s 7th ranked UCLA Bruins, 36-6.

December 19, 1977 – Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne called on backup quarterback Randy Garcia, who rallied the Cornhuskers with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to beat North Carolina 21-17.

December 22, 1979 – This game marked the only time a touchdown was not scored as Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions defeated Tulane 9-6.

December 29, 1982 – The 1982 contest marked an end to a remarkable career as Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant coached his final game. Alabama defeated Illinois 21-15 before a crowd of 54,123.

December 29, 1983 – Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, but Notre Dame pulled out a 19-18 victory thanks to a missed extra point. Flutie was named the game’s MVP.

December 27, 1984 – Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson had two touchdown runs. Jackson’s 39-yard-touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave Auburn a 21-15 win over Arkansas.

December 29, 1991 – A record crowd of 61,497 watched as Air Force defeated Mississippi State 38-15.

December 31, 1998 – Tulane capped an undefeated season by defeating BYU 41-27.

December 29, 2000 – #23 Colorado St. defeated #22 Louisville 22-17. The Rams finished the year 11-1 and ranked #16.

December 31, 2001– For the second year in a row, the Bowl featured a match-up of two Top 25 teams as #23 Louisville downed #19 BYU 28-10.

December 31, 2004 – The first match-up of two Top 10 teams as No. 7 Louisville took on No. 10 Boise State. This was the highest scoring game in AutoZone Liberty Bowl history with Louisville defeating Boise State 44-40.

December 29, 2007 – In front of an all-time record crowd of 63,816 fans, Mississippi State defeated UCF 10-3.

January 2, 2009 – In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the Bowl secured a January playing date for the first time in its history. Kentucky rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to knock off East Carolina, 25-19.

January 2, 2010 – A sellout crowd of 62,742, the second largest of all-time, watched the first-ever overtime game in AutoZone Liberty Bowl history, as Arkansas defeated East Carolina 20-17.

January 2, 2016 – A sellout crowd of 61,136, watched Arkansas defeat Kansas State 45-23 in one of the most watched non-NY6 ESPN bowl games of the year.

December 30, 2017 – A capacity crowd of 57,266 watched Iowa State defeat Memphis 21-20.

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