No team can dismiss anyone on their schedule this early on in the season.
After Tennessee’s loss to Georgia State last weekend, it feels like every program got put on notice that it can happen to anyone if they don’t go out and compete. With #11 Florida set to come to Lexington next weekend, it would be easy for the Wildcats to look past Eastern Michigan on Saturday. The Eagles made an impression early in the season against the Wildcats back in 2017, though, and the UK coaching staff isn’t going to let their players forget it.
During the 2017-2018 season, Kentucky was 3-1 entering the fifth weekend when EMU came to Lexington. The Wildcats were a 14.5 point favorite, which is oddly the exact same spread for this weekend’s game, after a close loss to Florida a week before.
The game was much closer than that, though, as it came down to the final possession where it took a Mike Edwards interception in the end zone to clinch a 24-20 victory for the Cats.
The Eagles defense made their presence felt that day, as they recorded five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Simply put, they made a Power 5 offensive line look like it belonged in the FCS that day.
“We weren’t disciplined. We took them for granted. Even being a MAC school, they had a really good defense. I saw they had a guy drafted last year. They’re legit,” said Drake Jackson this week.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran made no bones about what happened at Kroger Field that day.
“We got our tail kicked,” said Gran on Tuesday. “We absolutely got our tail kicked.”
The good thing to come from it is this coaching staff has plenty of film from that game to show the current Cats to ensure they don’t let it happen again.
“It was awful. And the answer is yes they have watched (the tape) and yes they are seeing it,” said Gran.
Since their defensive line dominated that game, offensive line coach John Schlarman is preaching the UK standard to his guys.
“Our message has been they came in here and hit us in the mouth that year. They outplayed us that day. There’s no excuses. They came in here and played more physical and strained harder than we did. That’s not our MO. We know they’re going to come in here and play hard. That’s fine, but let’s make sure we’re playing to our standard, what our standard is on the offensive line here at Kentucky.”
There’s a lot of focus on EMU’s defense, but their QB had such a great first week that he was nationally recognized. Dual-threat quarterback Mike Glass III started his senior season off with a 20/22 passing performance with three touchdowns. He rushed seven times and added another touchdown on the ground as well. He now leads the country in completion percentage after Week 1 and was one of eight recipients of the The Manning Award Stars of the Week.
Here are some highlights of Glass from the 2018 season (contains some NSFW language):
Both teams are coming in 1-0 after Kentucky’s 38-24 win over Toledo and EMU’s 30-23 win Coastal Carolina. Following the win, Mark Stoops was obviously displeased during his postgame interview with different parts of the game and thought there was obvious room for improvement.
The personnel is obviously different but if they aren’t careful and come out sloppy against the Eagles, they could be looking at the same situation down the stretch as they did in 2017. If they can control the offensive line and limit Glass’ production, Kentucky will give themselves a great chance to be 2-0 heading into their showdown with the Gators.