Kentucky and Eastern Michigan have only met once on the gridiron. Kentucky won the 2017 meeting 24-20, but things did not go so well for the Cats.
“We got our tail kicked,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran recalled. “We absolutely got our tail kicked. We didn’t play well enough. It was awful.”
Eastern Michigan outgained UK 312-228 on offense and recorded four more first downs. Stephen Johnson was sacked five times, twice by current Oakland Raider Maxx Crosby, and the Eagles recorded ten tackles for loss. This year’s offensive line was reminded of the performance before game week began.
“Coach Schlarman was definitely talking about that already this morning and yesterday,” Mark Stoops said on Monday. “So he’ll get their attention, he’ll get them right and they will be ready to play.”
Even though Crosby and most of the Eagles’ front seven departed after last season, this team cannot be taken lightly.
“Their coaching staff is really, really good. Their kids, they understand football. They understand schemes. They understand leverage. They’re great tacklers. They play with a great sense of urgency at all times and it might not be a lot, but no matter what they do, they do it darn near perfect. You have to go out and beat this team. You have to out-physical them and you have to beat them. You have to be darn near perfect,” said Gran.
Kentucky was far from perfect in 2017, but was able to escape thanks to three timely turnovers, including two late interceptions that secured the victory.
Even though EMU’s personnel has changed, the scheme that beat Toledo a year ago is still intact.
“They gave us one heck of a game a couple years ago, so we know they’re another good football team from the MAC, very well coached, and very similar in that way,” Stoops said. “They did a nice job of just staying patient and nickel and dime’ing us and being efficient, trying to stay ahead of the chains, much like Toledo did this past week early on.”
Once Brogan Roback moved on to Hard Knocks fame, Mike Glass III took over for the Eagles under center. Last week EMU’s dual-threat quarterback proved he can proficiently move the ball down the field by nickel and dime’ing Coastal Carolina’s defense. He completed 20-of-22 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s super efficient. He understands the offense,” said defensive coordinator Brad White. “They do a nice job of giving him high-percentage throws to get him in rhythm early. The receivers, they’ve got receivers with good strong hands. They operate well as a unit. They’re well-coached so we’ve got our hands full.”
Along with Glass’ offensive contributions, the EMU defense picked off four passes to secure a 30-23 victory on the road in week one. Kentucky must play clean or the game could come down to the wire, just like it did in 2017.
“They’re a good, physical football team that plays the game the right way and they like to stay efficient,” said Stoops. “It will be another challenge.”