Kentucky hosts Eastern Michigan looking to get back on track
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky is more determined to ensure it plays a complete football game after feeling like it let one slip away last week.
That’s a wise approach Saturday against Eastern Michigan, which is just as determined to bounce back from a disappointing loss.
Kentucky (3-1) hopes to make a statement after allowing No. 21 Florida to score 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 28-27 Southeastern Conference loss that halted the Wildcats’ hopes of taking early control of the Eastern Division. What bothered them most was twice leaving receivers uncovered on scoring drives, mental breakdowns that coach Mark Stoops concede shouldn’t have happened.
After a week of intense practices, Stoops doesn’t foresee a reoccurrence.
He expects the Wildcats to be focused in the inaugural matchup against the Eagles (2-1).
”I just want us to continue playing the way we’ve been playing, and that’s very hard and very passionate,” Stoops said. ”If we play with that kind of energy and that kind of attitude and trust each other, we’ll be fine.”
The Mid-America Conference Eagles have already earned their first win over a Power-Five school – beating Rutgers 16-13 – and look to break through against their seventh SEC opponent.
EMU coach Chris Creighton acknowledges it will be challenging on the road against a school coming off a tough loss. But then, the Eagles have their own incentive to bounce back after falling 27-20 to Ohio in double overtime in league play.
”They’re really talented,” Creighton said of the Wildcats. ”(The Florida game) didn’t go the way they wanted it to, and neither did ours. But you’ve got to respond.”
EMU’s defense is allowing just 15.7 points per game. Senior quarterback Brogan Roback has 798 yards passing this season and ranks third on the school’s career list with 6,561 and 40 touchdowns.
Stoops believes those strengths should keep the Wildcats’ attention.
”They don’t try to be too cute on either side of the ball,” the coach said of the Eagles. ”They just play good, sound fundamental football and their players play really hard.”
Here are some other things to watch when Kentucky hosts Eastern Michigan:
STEADY STEPHEN: Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson had another solid performance against Florida despite the loss. He tied a career best with three TD passes and completed 17 of 25 attempts for 196 yards, improving his completion rate to 64.1 percent that ranks fourth in the SEC.
DOUBLE DUTY: Roback also punts, and pretty well. He’s averaging 44.86 yards on seven ”pooch” kicks, along with a team-best of 61 yards. Two of his punts have been downed inside the 20.
KICKSTARTER: Austin MacGinnis broke Kentucky’s career mark for field goals with two last week and needs just 13 points to surpass Lones Seiber’s career mark of 309 points. He has made 42 consecutive conversion kicks dating back to last season is 8 of 11 on field goals.
GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of Nate Northington’s debut for Kentucky against Mississippi that broke the SEC color line in football. The Louisville native will be an honorary game captain and the conference will show a short video during each SEC broadcast honoring Northington and Vanderbilt’s Perry Wallace, who broke the color line in basketball that year.
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