UK’s offense wasn’t physical enough against Eastern Michigan


Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson prepares to hike the ball during the game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. September 30, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Cats won 24 to 20. Photo by Akintunde Nelson | Staff

Members of UK football’s offense spoke to media following Tuesday’s practice about their disappointing performance against Eastern Michigan. 

After reviewing film from the game, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said his team wasn’t physical enough against EMU.

“We need to be more physical, number one,” Gran said. “Number two, the execution part at times was good and we moved the ball and other times it wasn’t, and they know that.”

The stats prove Gran’s statement to be true, as the Cats gave up five sacks against the Eagles, the most they’ve given up in a game this season. The Cats also struggled to get large chunks of yardage on plays because of the lack of physicality. 

Quarterback Stephen Johnson believes that if the offense can play more physical, the big-yardage plays will happen more often.

“If we do that (be physical) a little bit more, we’ll be able to get past some guys and be able to make those longer runs and maybe hold a guy a little bit longer and make the passes,” Johnson said.

Gran isn’t worried about his unit’s physicality though, as he’s seen the offense be physical before in the games against South Carolina and Florida. If the offense can be physical like they were against their two toughest opponents, Gran said he thinks they’ll be just fine. 

Drake Jackson has earned a role for the future

At the delight of many fans on social media, redshirt freshman Drake Jackson got his first reps at center on Saturday.

After evaluating the performance, offensive line coach John Schlarman said Jackson got off to a slow start, but overall did a nice job for the Cats.

“His communication was good at center, that’s key, snaps were good, already mentioned that,” Schlarman said. “I thought his technique, if any of the areas of improvement, that’s something you’d expect a young guy to have to improve on, he’s got to get better at his technique.”

Many we’re hoping to see Jackson crack the rotation after some of the struggles that have occurred with the center position this season. Fans can expect to see more of Jackson as he was told that there is an eight-man rotation within the offensive line, and he’s one of those eight.

To keep his spot though, he’ll have to improve on the freshman mistakes he made against the Eagles. Jackson said his slow start can be blamed on the adjustments from practice to game action. 

“I’ve been going against our guys for the past year and-a-half, so it’s a little bit different game speed from practice speed,” Jackson said.

Low energy another reason for offensive struggles

Against Florida, 62,945 fans packed Kroger Field to watch the Cats play, but a week later against Eastern Michigan, 12,352 less fans came to the stadium.

The Cats definitely noticed, as tight end CJ Conrad said the downgrade in energy partially led to the slow start on offense.

However, no matter how much positive or negative energy a crowd gives the Cats, they refuse to let it affect them.

“No crowd will affect us, whether it’s less or a lot,” running back Benny Snell said. “It was a lot more than I expected, they came out and we had support, I could hear them.”

The crowd attendance might’ve been down against Eastern Michigan, but with an SEC opponent coming to town, the Cats expect that to change.

“It’s a night game, it’s an SEC opponent, so it should be a great atmosphere, but no matter what we got to be ready to play, and we will be,” Conrad said.