It was a day where optimism and hope could spring eternal. For the Eastern Michigan Eagles (2-2, 0-1 MAC), it was a chance (a good one, even) to head down south into hostile SEC territory and walk out of Kroger Field with an upset victory. It may even come with extra fuel points. It’s a new sponsorship and Kentucky is still working out the details.
For the Kentucky Wildcats (4-1, 1-1 SEC), their optimism could be minted behind a rebound victory after last week’s devastating loss to the Florida Gators. Though the 31st straight loss to the Gators, it was maybe the most disheartening. Consistent errors, two uncovered receivers, and a capacity crowd left dumbstruck seemed to just shift the tone and tenor of the season entirely. There were even whispers here in Lexington of a conference title before that game was over.
After Saturday’s 24-20 Kentucky win over EMU, UK fans are well within reason to worry about every game left on their schedule and EMU fans can’t help but see this loss as one that got away.
It certainly didn’t get away on the ground for either team, as they combined for only 66 yards rushing. A grind it out cloud of dust this game was not. Eastern did win the yardage battle 312-228, but winning on the road with three turnovers and a missed extra point is incredibly difficult if not outright impossible. For a team known for its discipline and workman attitude, EMU certainly didn’t deliver tonight.
It certainly seemed like EMU was up for some world shocking as they opened the game by forcing a Kentucky fumble and immediately passing for a 7-0 lead behind a Brogan Roback TD to Sergio Bailey. Kentucky would answer to tie the game and the teams would trade scoring drives for a 14-14 halftime knot.
The second half saw Kentucky begin to take command and build a 24-14 lead, but similar to last week, the Wildcats failed to close it out and allowed an opponent a late-game touchdown to close the gap. A missed extra point by the Eagles would make it a 4-point game, requiring a TD and not a field goal.
Eastern had a final chance to capture the upset after forcing a Kentucky punt with 44 seconds remaining, but their chance fell short on a 48-yard pass intercepted in the end zone as time expired.
Roback would finish the day 26/43 for 256 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. Both Benny Snell for Kentucky and Ian Eriksen for EMU were largely held in check, an uncharacteristic day for both, speaking highly of both defenses.