Cats come back to win home opener at Kroger Field

The UK Football team played their home opener against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday, playing their first game inside the newly-named Kroger Field. They trailed for most of the game, but came back to take the win 27-16 to start the season 2-0.

The Cats got off to a slow start, generating little offense after their short field goal in the first quarter. The Cats then turned the ball over on downs after giving up a touchdown pass to EKU’s Ryan Markush. Markush would finish with 98 receiving yards from 10 receptions, leading all receivers in both categories.

The struggles would continue as freshman wide receiver Lynn Bowden was ejected for targeting in the first quarter as he attempted to block an EKU player on a long run by quarterback Stephen Johnson after making helmet-to-helmet contact. Bowden finished with 51 yards from kick returns and no receptions.

The second quarter looked equally bleak, as EKU’s first drive ended with a touchdown on a run by running back LJ Scott. However, UK blocked the extra point to keep the Colonels to a 13-3 lead.

UK improved on both sides of the ball after the blocked field goal, shutting down the rest of EKU’s drives in the half, as well as completing a touchdown pass to All-SEC tight end C.J. Conrad.

The Cats capped off the quarter with a drive that included two passes to wide receiver Blake Bone that totaled 50 yards as time ran short. Kicker Austin MacGinnis missed the 48-yard field goal attempt to send the Cats into halftime trailing 13-10.

In the third quarter, UK turned the game’s momentum in their favor as they recovered a fumble on their own 3-yard line to end EKU’s initial drive of the half. The fumble was forced by Jordan Jones and recovered by Derrick Baity.

The Cats then marched down the field, but ended the drive at the 50. They allowed a field goal by EKU in the following drive, and it turned out to be the Colonels’ final points of the contest.

UK’s sophomore standout Benny Snell Jr. ran for 46 yards in the third quarter, including a 25-yard touchdown run where most of the yards were gained after breaking a tackle. He’d finish the game with 103 rushing yards, leading all rushers in the game for his sixth career 100-yard rushing game.

On UK’s very next drive, Johnson finished the 85-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run to put the Cats up 24-16 early in the 4th quarter. The Cats would notch one more field goal for the final score of the game after an interception from Mike Edwards.

The Cats will travel to South Carolina next, where they’ll take on the Gamecocks next Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.