LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Benny Snell scored on a 12-yard run early in the fourth quarter after the second of Kentucky’s big special teams plays provided a cushion, and the Wildcats survived Eastern Michigan 24-20 on Saturday.
With both schools looking to get back on track after tough conference losses, the Wildcats (4-1) eventually succeeded despite uneven play throughout their inaugural non-conference meeting with the Eagles (2-2). A game that was tied at 14 at halftime began turning the Wildcats’ way when Tristan Yeomans recovered a muffed punt at EMU’s 42 and led to Austin MacGinnis’ 39-yard field goal.
Josh Paschal’s blocked punt early in the fourth was downed at EMU’s 12, and Snell busted through on the next play for a 10-point lead that stood just a week after Kentucky yielded 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a 28-27 loss to No. 21 Florida.
”We found ways to win the football game when we didn’t play our best,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. ”There’s no excuse for not playing our best at home. I appreciate 4-1 because it’s better than 3-2.”
Ian Eriksen’s 2-yard TD run got EMU within 24-20 and gave the Eagles one last chance, but Brogan Roback’s desperation pass was intercepted by Mike Edwards in the end zone in the final seconds.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles had their shots at Kentucky, outgaining the Wildcats 312-228. They also had late chances despite trailing by double digits, desperation that demonstrated where those special teams’ breakdowns hurt. Brogan Roback finished with 256 yards on 26-of-43 passing and a TD, but threw two interceptions.
Kentucky: The Wildcats looked hung over from their fourth-quarter collapse against Florida with out-of-sync play on both sides of the ball for more than a half. But QB Stephen Johnson rebounded from a first-snap fumble that set up EMU’s touchdown on the next play to throw first-half scoring passes of 20 and 7 yards to Greg Hart and Tavin Richardson, respectively. Defense and punt coverage also made big plays when needed.
GIVING NO GROUND
Kentucky’s run defense returned to its stingy ways by allowing Eastern Michigan just 13 yards rushing on 27 carries. That’s the lowest allowed since Samford finished minus -2 on the ground in 2012.
At the same time, the Wildcats managed just 53 yards on 37 attempts.
Eastern Michigan: Visits Toledo in MAC play on Oct. 7.
Kentucky: Hosts Missouri in SEC play on Oct. 7.
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