Cats Illustrated hands out its weekly report card following Kentucky's 24-20 "survive and advance" style win against Eastern Michigan.
In spite of being hobbled and clearly less than 100-percent (both in his lower body after taking hits and his arm, after taking a shot early in the game), Stephen Johnson managed to put up solid numbers. He wasn't always on his game and didn't impact the game with his running. But Johnson's 18-27 came with 175 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. He did lose a fumble.
Benny Snell (21 carries, 75 yards) ended up with his usual solid workload but there just wasn't much to be had. Sihiem King (7 carries, 7 yards) was almost entirely ineffective as well. They were not significantly involved in the passing game.
You could make the case that these last three games have been the best for Kentucky's receivers since Joker Phillips' first season in Lexington. Garrett Johnson caught eight passes and its been a while since we've been able to say a Kentucky receiver did that. Lynn Bowden and Kayaune Ross also caught two balls. The receivers are not dropping passes and seem to be executing the offense fairly well.
C.J. Conrad didn't play as much as he normally does and had been banged up leading up to the game, so that explains his absence from the stat sheet. Greg Hart still managed to tack on a 20 yard touchdown reception so the position is still contributing in a major way.
It was a dreadful day for the Kentucky offensive line and arguably their worst performance of the season. That's saying something. Bunchy Stallings gathered 25 yards in penalties, there were breakdowns across the board, Johnson was pressured and battered to the point where he was nearly taken out of the game due to injury and the run game couldn't get anything going. Eastern Michigan had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Kentucky finished with 53 rushing yards on 37 carries.
The run defense was stout just as it has been in four of five games this season. Kentucky's defense will remain in the top 10 of the national standings in run defense and will probably climb in that category. Kengera Daniel notched the defensive line's first sack of the season and UK's front controlled the line of scrimmage when the Eagles tried to run the ball. All that said, EMU is not a good running team so it's still tough to tell, after five games, just how good Kentucky really is against the run.
Kentucky's linebackers were all over the field making huge plays for the entire game. Josh Allen had 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks, Eli Brown had six tackles and one TFL and Denzil Ware chipped in with a sack as well.
The secondary gave up a touchdown pass on the first play of the game and they gave up a long touchdown pass on the fake later in the first half, but they played very sound for most of the game. Mike Edwards led the team in tackles (8) and he chipped in with an interception and two pass breakups as well. Darius West didn't have to make as many tackles as he's normally been making this year but that's not a bad thing. Kendall Randolph had a big interception later in the game. Lonnie Johnson dropped one pass that could have been picked and there were one or two other missed opportunities as well. Brogan Roback finished with 256 yards, a touchdown and two picks on 26-43 passing.
Yes, Austin MacGinnis missed a pair of field goals. It's a mystery as to why it seems almost all of his attempts have been so far out. But missed kicks aside, the unit was the main reason Kentucky won the game. Kentucky scored three points off the EMU muffed punt that was recovered to give the offense a shorter field, and then Josh Paschal's blocked punt led to the touchdown that put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Kentucky didn't look especially motivated in the first half and that was probably a letdown following an emotionally deflating loss to Florida. That might have been predictable, but still, its the staff's job to motivate. They are clearly doing a good job with the defense and special teams, but the offensive game plan is suffering because the line is struggling so much.