Mark Story

First Scouting Report: Can Kentucky overcome Eastern Michigan’s upset mojo?

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An early look ahead to the Kentucky Wildcats’ next football game:

The opponent

Kentucky (1-0 after a 38-24 win over Toledo) will face Eastern Michigan (1-0) on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m., at Kroger Field in a contest that will be telecast on either ESPNU or the SEC Network Alternate Channel. Coach Chris Creighton’s Eagles opened their 2019 season Saturday with a 30-23 victory at Coastal Carolina.

EMU quarterback Mike Glass III completed 20 of 22 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score and the Eastern Michigan defense intercepted four passes.

Most recent meeting

Kentucky’s Josh Paschal blocked a punt to set up Benny Snell for a game-winning, 12-yard touchdown run as the Wildcats — seemingly nursing an emotional hangover from a crushing 28-27 loss to Florida in their previous game — eked out a 24-20 win over EMU on Sept. 30, 2017, in Lexington.

It is the only prior meeting between the two teams.

Originally, this season’s Kentucky-Eastern Michigan contest was supposed to be played at Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Mich. However, facing budget pressures, EMU agreed to move the game to Kroger Field in exchange for an $800,000 payout from UK.

Kentucky and Eastern Michigan are also contracted to play the first game of the 2020 season, Sept. 5, at Kroger Field. According to the Detroit News, UK will pay the Eagles a $350,000 guarantee for that game.

Know your foe

1. Eastern Michigan has 10 starters (six offense, four defense) back from last season’s 7-6 team that lost to Georgia Southern, 23-21, in the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

2. Kentucky will not have to worry about EMU rush end Jeremiah Harris — who terrorized the UK offense with 3.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks in the 2017 game. Harris finished his college eligibility in 2018 and signed a free-agent pact with the New York Giants.

3. Eastern Michigan has scored a road upset of a power-five conference foe each of the past two seasons. In 2017, the Eagles won at Rutgers of the Big Ten 16-13; last season, EMU pulled off a Big Ten stunner, edging Jeff Brohm and Purdue, 20-19, in West Lafayette, Ind.

Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.