I don’t think many people would argue with you if you said that Kentucky certainly was suffering a bit of a hangover from last week’s heartbreaking loss to Florida. From the outset, Kentucky did not look like they were eager to be there, fumbling and allowing Eastern Michigan to score right off the bat. It seemed as if they were going through the motions against a team they expected to defeat easily.
This game felt as if it dragged on forever, and it kind of did, honestly. I’m struggling to really find many bright spots besides the defensive line and the linebacker corps, which brought the pressure to Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback all day long. Even after being shaken up, both Josh Allen and Adrian Middleton continued to bring the pressure and get to the quarterback with relative ease.
For most of the day, Kentucky’s ground game struggled, as the Wildcats had less than 30 rushing yards going into halftime. By the end of the day, their rushing numbers were still low, finishing with only 53 yards in that department. Most of that is due to the fact that the Eagles sacked Stephen Johnson A LOT, as he had -34 rushing yards on the day.
For most of today’s game, the outcome felt like it was in doubt, and it certainly should not have been that way. Even though Kentucky lost in disappointing fashion last week, they still demonstrated that they’re a solid team with the potential to do something special in the SEC East.
They did not look like that today.
The offensive line could not protect Stephen Johnson. The offense itself was often incapable of capitalizing on good field position, allowing Kentucky to settle for (missed) lengthy field goals.
One of the few highlights today was from Josh Paschal, who made his mark on the game in the fourth quarter, blocking an EMU punt to give Kentucky the ball in the redzone. That key special teams play set up a Benny Snell touchdown, and it was the first time all day that Kentucky got some real separation in the points department.
Later on in the fourth quarter, Kendall Randolph managed to secure his first interception of the season, doing so at a crucial time—Roback and the Eagles were marching down the field. At a time where it seemed as if EMU was going to cut into the Wildcats’ lead, Randolph came up with a pick that made it seem as if Kentucky would come out victorious.
However, a late touchdown drive for Eastern Michigan took the Kentucky lead to 24-20, and a missed extra point did the Eagles no favors, only complicating things for them. After recovering the onside kick, the Wildcats managed to run some clock down before stopping the Eagles on the final drive of the game.
It remains clear that Kentucky cannot play like that and expect to do well next week, even if they are playing Mizzou. Although let’s be clear: Kentucky’s defense looked good today. It was the offense and the offensive line that was thoroughly lacking all day long. They have to play with some sort of passion and energy that they were without against the Eagles, and there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t be more pumped up.
I understand that the loss to Florida hurt, but every game left on Kentucky’s schedule looks winnable (except for that road trip to Georgia, if I’m being honest). If they play like they did for the majority of that Florida game, this team will be spectacular. If they play like they did for the majority of this game, I have serious doubts about the remainder of the season.