Stoops says Cats have to “play smarter” after win over Eastern Michigan


Kentucky wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. runs the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 38-17. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

“They played hard tonight. Just got to play smarter and eliminate some of the foolishness with unforced errors.”

That’s what UK football head coach Mark Stoops said after his team’s 38-17 win over the visiting Eastern Michigan University Eagles Saturday night. While the Cats were able to pull out the win under the lights, they had several shortcomings.

Four of the Cats’ seven penalties came on offense. Two of them were holding calls that both went against guard Logan Stenberg. One of those holding calls voided what would have been a 21-yard touchdown rush from running back Kavosiey Smoke early in the second quarter.

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran saw the highs and lows of his offense.

“I mean just ridiculous. We have a chance to score 50 [points]. It’s inexcusable. Two fumbles, I mean I can’t even discuss it right now,” Gran said. “But we did do well. We were 9-for-14 on third down. We had a chance to convert maybe 12-of-14. We’re going go back and look and it’s going to tick you off, but I was proud of them.”

One of those fumbles came after running back AJ Rose fumbled a carry at the Eagles’ two-yard line early in the second quarter. Wide receiver Lynn Bowden fumbled in the Cats’ first drive before the offense recovered the ball.

While Bowden had seven catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, along with a 29-yard punt return, he missed seven other targets, some of which were dropped passes. He didn’t hold back any self-criticism.

“If I’m going be the play maker that Kentucky needs, then I got to do better,” Bowden said. “I don’t know what it is. I’m going to watch the film from the first two games and see my body language. I dropped three balls tonight and only dropped three last year. So, I’m hard on myself and fixing that.”

Defensively, the first and second halves each told different stories. After limiting the Eagles to 111 total yards in the first half, the Cats allowed 275 in the second half. Those gains mostly came from passing yards as EMU had 100 in the first half and 237 in the second half.

Defensive coordinator Brad White says his defense “played well in spurts,” but that they “have to play with more consistency.”

“There’s some anger and frustration that we played a poor first half last week and better second half, and then this week we played a good first half and unacceptable second half. At some point we have to put the two together,” White said. 

With the Cats facing longtime rival Florida next week at home, White recognizes the need to re-examine his game plan to continue correcting mistakes.

“Is it [the game plan] good enough in terms of, you have enough bullets, but can the kids execute? And can they execute it to everything that you see? That will be part of the early week going into Florida.”