Mark Story

How Kentucky and Eastern Michigan match up — with a game prediction

UK’s Mark Stoops: Eastern Michigan ‘gave us one heck of a game a couple years ago’

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about the Eastern Michigan Eagles, UK’s opponent on Saturday at Kroger Field. The Wildcats defeated EMU 24-20 in 2017. Both the Wildcats and Eagles are 1-0.
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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talks about the Eastern Michigan Eagles, UK’s opponent on Saturday at Kroger Field. The Wildcats defeated EMU 24-20 in 2017. Both the Wildcats and Eagles are 1-0.

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UK vs. Eastern Michigan preview

Check below all week for coverage of the University of Kentucky football team leading up to its game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

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How Kentucky (1-0) and Eastern Michigan (1-0) match up at each position for Saturday night’s college football contest at Kroger Field — with a game prediction:

Quarterbacks

In Kentucky’s 38-24 win over Toledo, junior Terry Wilson got his 2019 off to a solid start. The 6-foot-3, 208-pound junior from Oklahoma City completed 19 of 26 throws for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Eastern Michigan’s Mike Glass III was a model of efficiency in the Eagles’ 30-23 win at Coastal Carolina. The 6-foot, 209-pound senior hit on 20 of 22 throws for 188 yards and three TDs. A dual threat, the St. Louis product had two games last season — Western Michigan (101), Toledo (125) — in which he ran for over 100 yards. Glass also had a rushing TD at Coastal Carolina.

Advantage: Kentucky

Terry Wilson
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) is 11-3 as UK’s starter after the Wildcats beat Toledo 38-24 last week. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Running backs

Redshirt freshman Kavosiey Smoke led Kentucky rushers last week with 78 yards on seven carries, including a 40-yard TD jaunt. Starting tailback A.J. Rose ran 16 times for 74 yards. Redshirt freshman Christopher Rodriguez had 34 yards on five tries, but also fumbled twice, one of which was lost. A three-time Eastern Michigan team captain, Shaq Vann was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA for 2019. The 5-10, 222-pound senior from South Bend, Ind., ran 22 times for 84 yards last week.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kavosiey Smoke vs Toledo
Kentucky redshirt freshman running back Kavosiey Smoke (20) ran for a 40-yard touchdown in UK’s 38-24 victory over Toledo. Mark Mahan

Wide receivers

Though the non-Lynn Bowden contingent of UK wideouts were a major question mark entering the season, they acquitted themselves well vs. Toledo. Senior Ahmad Wagner (three catches, 57 yards), junior Josh Ali (2-yard touchdown catch), sophomore Allen Dailey (two catches, 31 yards) and redshirt freshman Bryce Oliver (acrobatic 32-yard TD grab) all made plays. Eastern Michigan sophomore Dylan Drummond had a big game (five catches, 52 yards, two TDs) vs. Coastal Carolina. Sophomore Quian Williams caught EMU’s final TD, which turned out to provide the game-winning margin. Senior Arthur Jackson caught 46 passes in 2018, but had only two receptions at Coastal Carolina.

Advantage: Kentucky

LEX_190831UKfootballas32.JPG
Kentucky senior wide receiver Ahmad Wagner (14), a former Iowa Hawkeyes basketball player, caught the first three passes of his UK career last week vs. Toledo. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Tight ends

Kentucky junior Justin Rigg failed to catch a pass against Toledo, but the 6-6, 263-pound product of Springboro, Ohio, still scored his first college TD when he recovered a fumble in the end zone. Redshirt freshman Keaton Upshaw caught his first two college passes for 19 yards last week. Eastern Michigan’s Thomas Odukoya, a native of the Netherlands, was preseason Second Team All-MAC by Phil Steele. Backup Bryson Cannon caught three passes for 14 yards at Coastal Carolina.

Advantage: Kentucky

Keaton Upshaw at Media Day.JPG
Kentucky redshirt freshman tight end Keaton Upshaw (88) caught the first two passes of his college career last week vs. Toledo. Silas Walker swalker@herald-leader.com

Offensive line

After missing all of 2018 with a knee injury, Kentucky left tackle Landon Young returned to game action last week. “I felt like I started off a little slow,” the former Lafayette High School star said. “I was sort of getting back into the season, being able to get back into playing. It definitely picked up as the game went along.” The strength of Eastern Michigan’s front is the left side. Tackle Steven Nielsen, a 6-8, 307-pound Denmark product, was First Team Preseason All-MAC by Phil Steele’s Yearbook, while guard Sidy Sow, a 6-5, 324-pound native of Bromont, Quebec, Canada, was Second Team.

Advantage: Kentucky

Kentucky offensive lineman was back on the field Saturday for UK's season opener against Toledo.

Defensive line

Kentucky end T.J. Carter, a 6-4, 287-pound senior, and tackle Calvin Taylor, a 6-9, 300-pound junior, each had a quarterback sack in the win over Toledo. Eastern Michigan is undersized (by SEC standards) along the defensive front. End Turan Rush, a 6-2, 247-pound junior, had three tackles and a crucial late QB sack vs. Coastal Carolina. Backup end Clay Holford, a 6-2, 256-pound senior, added an interception. Tackle Mikey Haney, a 6-4, 280-pound freshman, had three tackles.

Advantage: Kentucky

TJ Carter vs Toledo
Kentucky senior defensive end T.J. Carter (90) celebrated after sacking Toledo QB Mitchell Guadagni during UK’s 38-24 win last week. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Linebackers

Kentucky’s young linebacking corps was the brightest spot of week one. Sophomore WLB DeAndre Square performed like a star (11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one interception). At OLB/rush end, redshirt sophomores Josh Paschal (four tackles, one sack) and Jordan Wright (six tackles, one TFL) were both productive. Sophomore backup WLB Chris Oats (five tackles) must sit out the first half vs. EMU after being called for targeting vs. Toledo. Eastern Michigan MLB Kobie Beltram, a 6-2, 226-pound senior, made a team-high 12 tackles at Coastal Carolina. WLB Terry Myrick, a 6-foot, 223-pound junior, had 11 tackles vs. the Chanticleers.

Advantage: Kentucky

DeAndre Square
Kentucky sophomore linebacker DeAndre Square had 11 tackles and an interception in UK’s 38-24 win over Toledo last week. Brian Simms bsimms@herald-leader.com

Defensive backs

After a slow start, Kentucky’s fully revamped secondary held its own vs. Toledo. Sophomore free safety Yusuf Corker had seven tackles and senior strong safety Jordan Griffin six. Cornerback Brandin Echols, a junior-college transfer, broke up three passes. Eastern Michigan’s secondary picked off three passes at Coastal Carolina. Free safety Blake Bogan, hybrid safety Brody Hoying and boundary CB Kevin McGill all had picks. Backup rover Russell Vaden, a sophomore from Moore High School in Louisville, had two tackles last week.

Advantage: Eastern Michigan

Brandin Echols vs Toledo
Kentucky corernback Brandin Echols (26) broke up a pass intended for Toledo wide receiver Bryce Mitchell (80) during UK’s 38-24 win last Saturday. Echols, a junior-college transfer, broke up three passes in his first Wildcats appearance. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Special teams

Kentucky punter Max Duffy was one of last week’s stars, averaging 54 yards on six kicks. Redshirt freshman place-kicker Chance Poore hit a 46-yard field goal on his sole attempt. EMU punter Jake Julien was also strong last week, averaging 48.3 yards on three kicks. Place-kicker Chad Ryland hit his only field-goal try at Coastal Carolina from 26 yards. Last season, he went 12-of-20 on field goals, including the game winner in the Eagles’ 20-19 upset of Purdue. Eastern Michigan has blocked 12 kicks — six field goals, four punts and two extra points — since 2014.

Advantage: Kentucky

Max Duffy in 2018.JPG
Kentucky punter Max Duffy averaged 54 yards a kick on six punts vs. Toledo in the 2019 season opener. Ken Weaver Lexington

Prediction

Kentucky 38, Eastern Michigan 21

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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.
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