The Eastern Michigan Eagles fell to the Kentucky Wildcats, 38-17, on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Kroger Field in Lexington. Senior quarterback Mike Glass III had 337 yards in the loss. With the loss, the Eagles fall to 1-1 on the season, while Kentucky stays perfect with a 2-0 record. The Wildcats out-gained Eastern Michigan, 461-386 in total yardage. Arthur Jackson III led the Eagles in receiving with 71 yards on five catches.
The Wildcats got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. After stalling on their first drive, Kentucky began moving the ball with relative ease. Both touchdowns were runs, the first coming from Asim Rose, who scored from eight yards out. Kavosiey Smoke followed that with a 32-yard touchdown of his own. The Eagles totaled just 21 yards in the period as they were constantly facing pressure from the Wildcats defense.
“Kentucky plays great defense. Their scheme is built from the inside out. They have good, big, strong players on that defensive line and take away the run,” said Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton. “We had a plan where we wanted to run the ball but we got to where we said we had to spread them out. Mike saw the field pretty well and guys were running some pretty good routes. We have to do a better job. I think we found our rhythm when we decided to spread them out.”
Eastern Michigan started to get their offense going in the second quarter but two costly turnovers kept the momentum on Kentucky's side. The Eagles managed to gain 90 yards in the 15-minute period, as wideout Quian Williams caught three balls for 31 yards with a long of 15 yards. The Eagles would finally get on the scoreboard as they marched down the field with three consecutive first downs, which was followed by a 24-yard field goal from Chad Ryland to cut the halftime deficit to 17-3.
After halftime, the Eagles continued to adjust to the Kentucky defense and it resulted in their first touchdown of the game. After the Wildcats took a 24-3 advantage, Glass and Eastern Michigan quickly answered with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Line Latu. EMU gained 121 yards in the third quarter, which was more than the first two quarters combined. However, Eastern struggled to find their rhythm on defense and they were unable to force turnovers.
“We forced a turnover. The ball was on the ground more than once, though, so we have to get more than one. We have to win the turnover battle and we didn’t,” said Eastern Michigan defensive back Vince Calhoun. “We have to get more than that. I felt like I had a solid game. We had a lot of young guys out there though and everybody was tough and fought until the finish.”
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats extended their lead back to 21 points as Sawyer Smith connected with Ahmad Wagner down the sideline for a 54-yard score. The touchdown pass was Smith’s first pass with Kentucky. EMU answered on their following drive, a seven-yard touchdown pass from Glass to Bryson Cannon. Cannon made an impressive play to catch the ball and get his feet down in the end zone, cutting the deficit to 14 points.
It wouldn’t be enough in the end, though, as Eastern Michigan fell by three scores. Glass completed 64.2% of his passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss. Glass also led the team in rushing with 35 yards on 10 rushes. Shaq Vann, who topped 100 yards last week, only mustered nine yards against the Wildcats. Lynn Bowder Jr. had 54 receiving yards, 32 passing yards and 17 rushing yards in the win for Kentucky. He had seven receptions for one score.
“We fell short to a very good football team. A class act. I admired them from afar being in the midwest. They are the real deal and hats off to them,” Creighton said. “I’m proud of our guys though. I think we found some of our identity tonight. There are always positives in negative situations. I’m not surprised that I’m proud of our guys. We weren’t able to muster points in the first half but I love these guys and I know that we’ll get there.”