Helmet stickers following UK's win against Eastern Michigan

Warren Taylor, Staff Writer
Cats Illustrated

If you found Saturday's 24-20 Kentucky victory over Eastern Michigan hard to stomach then join the club, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said that win was "not enjoyable" to watch.

Stoops did not pull any punches with his comment. His team's offense put in a repugnant performance, especially the offensive line.

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However, the defense and special teams put in solid efforts and preserved the win while the offense sputtered.

While it may not seem like it at first glance, several Wildcat players put in helmet sticker worthy performances from a game where praise is hard to hand out.

Josh Allen: He notched 1.5 sacks to put his season total up to 5.5 in a display of fearsome of pressure by Kentucky's front seven; Allen finished the day with seven tackles.

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Matt Panton: The graduate transfer from Columbia proved indispensable on a black-letter day for Dean Hood's special team unit. Panton booted eight balls for an average of 47.3 yards, including a crucial 71-yarder Majority of his kicks pinned the Eagles far from the promised land. They allowed the Wildcats to dial up the pressure late in the contest and keep momentum firmly in the blue and white camp.

Mike Edwards: The ball-hawking Ohioan led Kentucky in tackles with eight, but his biggest contribution came in pass defense. Edwards deflected two balls and intercepted another. He played tight coverage all game and assisted in keeping EMU quarterback Brogan Roback contained to short and intermediate completions. Edwards also knocked down Roback's Hail Mary as time expired thus allowing the crowd at Kroger Field to exhale in relief.

Stephen Johnson: Put his modest, but important stats aside (18 of 27 passing for 175 yards and two touchdown strikes), for a moment and focus on what Stephen Johnson did best on Saturday. Against a relentless Eastern Michigan pass rush, Johnson stood in the pocket and did not panic. He did not let an early fumble, a handful of overthrown passes, or his time on the turf phase him. Johnson came out on the field drive after drive and did his job. The California native did it in spite of the brutal hits he took. Drew Barker was warmed up and ready to go late in the game, but Johnson refused to go to the bench. While not a legend-making performance, Johnson's display of pure grit is something that should make the Big Blue Nation appreciate him all the more because QB's like him are a dime a dozen these days.

Denzil Ware: The outspoken Ware blew up several EMU running plays early in the game and kept them from getting established on the ground. His sack in the second half stood out among the five the UK defense recorded.

Adrian Middleton: Bowling Green (KY) South Warren product Adrian Middleton spent a lot of time in the EMU backfield. He led Kentucky with two tackles for loss. Both went for substantial steps back, 13 yards in total. Middleton got a sack to go along with tying his season-high in tackles with five.

Garrett Johnson: Juice didn't break a big play Saturday, but he did give Stephen Johnson a steady target. In fact, quick hitters to Johnson were one of the more efficient weapons UK employed on the Eagles. They repeatedly earned first downs or positive yardage towards one. The senior wideout finished with six catches for 61 yards.

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