Mark Story

Instant analysis: Kentucky wins game, but injury might change complexion of season

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Game day: Kentucky vs. Eastern Michigan

Click below for more of Kentucky.com’s coverage of the Kentucky-Eastern Michigan football game.

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Instant analysis from Kentucky’s 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan:

How the game was won

Kentucky lost starting quarterback Terry Wilson to an apparent knee injury in the third quarter but got two touchdown passes from backup Sawyer Smith to cruise past EMU.

Game balls

1. Kentucky pass protection. Against the same program that had 10 tackles for loss and five sacks against UK in 2017, the Wildcats’ offensive line gave the Cats QBs ample time to throw this year.

2. Terry Wilson. Until his injury on a running play, the UK quarterback was showing the value of a full year’s starting experience in terms of polish in the pocket.

3. Sawyer Smith. The graduate transfer QB from Troy will always remember his first Kentucky pass — which went for a 54-yard touchdown to Ahmad Wagner.

4. Ahmad Wagner. The former Iowa basketball player turned UK wideout caught a TD and set up another with one of his patented “drawing of a pass interference call” plays.

5. Josh Paschal and Jordan Wright. The guys tasked with filling the spot held last year by National Defensive Player of the Year Josh Allen continue to impress. Paschal had five tackles and two tackles for loss; Wright had a quarterback sack and a QB hurry.

6. Yusuf Corker and Brandin Echols. Safety Corker (seven tackles) and cornerback Echols (seven tackles, impressive coverage) are the anchors of a totally revamped secondary.

Reasons for worry

1. Terry Wilson’s injury. The complexion of the Kentucky season may be changed depending on the severity of Wilson’s apparent knee injury.

2. UK ball security. Kentucky cost itself a touchdown by losing a fumble at the EMU 1-yard line and put the ball on the ground another time as well.

3. Kentucky pass defense. Once Eastern Michigan went to an up-tempo, short-passing game, the Wildcats had a hard time containing Eagles’ QB Mike Glass.

Key numbers

Six and zero. Under Mark Stoops, Kentucky is now 6-0 vs. teams from the Mid-American Conference. That’s a good thing because, from 2020 through 2028, UK is already contracted to play 12 more games vs. MAC teams.

Fashion police

For the second game of the 2019 season, Kentucky wore white helmets, blue jerseys with white numbers and letters and white pants. It was the first time UK had worn white helmets at home since Nov. 4, 2017, a 37-34 loss to Mississippi.

The Cat-mosphere

1. Sebrina Brunson served as the line judge on the officiating crew. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted during the second half that Brunson was the first female official to work an entire SEC football game ever.

2. Former Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad — now a rookie on the New York Giants practice squad — was on hand to see his former teammates play. “It’s a little weird,” Conrad told UK Radio of being at Kroger Field as a fan.

3. On UK’s “Heroes Day,” a group of National Guard members took their oaths of service in the end zone at Kroger Field in between the first and second quarters.

4. Former Wildcats linebacker Chris Chenault (1985-88) — UK’s second all-time leading tackler (482) — was honorary game captain for Kentucky.

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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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