By: Tyrus York – It was a cold, damp, and gloomy night in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday and the football Wildcats for 54 minutes of game time did nothing to warm that atmosphere.
Eastern Kentucky University, the FCS school 30 minutes down I-75, took Kentucky to the brink with an effort that in all honesty should have resulted in a win. Not just a small win, but a convincing one.
When the Colonels scored a touchdown with 7:39 remaining in the game to take a 27-13 lead, it appeared that they had the Wildcats dead to the rights. Fans hurried toward the exits and Twitter exploded with the usual Kentucky football rhetoric. Then something happened.
I almost feel guilty saying how Kentucky got it together and deserved to win because they really didn’t. They simply decided it was time to play ball and it caught EKU off guard just enough to squeak out the overtime victory.
The 34-27 overtime victory for Kentucky will be one that most fans are going to be eager to forget. After the game, Head Coach Mark Stoops could say little except how fortunate he felt that they escaped with a victory. He knew his team didn’t deserve to win, but in the often-unpredictable world of college football, you take it.
The doomsday scenarios were in full force. It would have no question been the worst loss in Kentucky Football history. But it wasn’t. Kentucky won and moves to 4-1 for the second season in a row.
For more than 3 quarters the Colonels proved to be the more physical team, dominating the offensive and defensive lines. Running backs Ethan Thomas and former Wildcat Dy’Shawn Mobley racked up over 80 yards each while the Colonel defense had Patrick Towles running for his life grabbing 4 sacks and 7 tackles for loss.
Patrick Towles appeared to lose all of the confidence gained from last week’s stellar performance against Missouri before finally getting the offense going on their final two drives and in the overtime. His 29-42 completion percentage looks much better than it felt, and his 2 interceptions quickly will be overshadowed by his late 3 touchdown passes.
Boom Williams was a late scratch, hopefully capping off what has apparently not been his best week off the field. That left Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton in charge of a run game that ended up being out-performed by the Colonels by a convincing 180-55 margin in total rush yards.
The Kentucky defense will take some heat for giving up 363 total yards and 27 points to Eastern, and at times it looked like the Colonels could do whatever they wanted on offense. But the reality is the Wildcat defense was once again deserted by a struggling Kentucky offense.
Kentucky will get a week and a half to prepare for what is another important game in defining the progress Stoops and Company are making in Lexington. A win at home on Thursday night against what appears to be a struggling Auburn team would get them one win away from bowl eligibility. But it would also keep them in the hunt for a SEC East title.
After their performance against the Colonels it’s hard to imagine the Cats as SEC contenders. With Georgia losing to Alabama, the standings say otherwise. Can Kentucky get their minds right and capitalize against Auburn on October 15th? What is sure to be another sellout crowd in the new CWS will have to just wait and see.