Game Day Central: Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky
Kentucky got the game’s first possession but the Cats were unable to make a first down and were forced to punt. Wilson Berry’s kick was blocked by EKU’s Cornelius Evans and the Colonels took over on the UK 30 yard line.
The Colonels would take advantage of the short field. After making a first down, EKU got on the board when quarterback Parker McKinney scrambled 14 yards for a touchdown. Patrick Nations added the extra point and Eastern Kentucky led 7-0 with 10:46 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Kentucky got three first downs, crossing the 50 into EKU territory. But the drive stalled and, on fourth and nine from the EKU 33, Leary was sacked by the Colonels’ Albert Nunes and the Cats turned the ball over on downs with 4:30 to play in the first.
EKU took the ball and got into UK territory before the Kentucky defense forced a punt. The Cats would take over at their own seven yard line with 1:40 remaining in the period. The Colonels would lead 7-0 after 15 minutes of play.
Early in the second quarter, Kentucky was forced to punt and EKU took over deep in its own territory. On the second play of the drive, UK linebacker Trevin Wallace hit EKU’s Braedon Sloan, causing a fumble that Kentucky’s Alex Afari recovered at the EKU 24.
The EKU defense would step up on the drive, as Frank Lee tipped a Leary pass, then intercepted it at the EKU 39. The Colonels took over with 10:39 left in the half.
Again, EKU would get into Kentucky territory, but this drive would be stopped when McKinney’s pass over the middle was intercepted by UK’s Maxwell Hairston at the UK four yard lin. Kentucky took over with 10:00 left in the half.
Kentucky was able to make a pair of first downs on its next drive, but the Cats would be forced to punt again and EKU took over at its own 13 with 7:17 to play in the half.
EKU took its next possession and again drove into UK territory. But the drive stalled and the Colonels tried a 48-yard field goal. But Nations’ kick came up short and the Cats took over at their own 31 with 4:40 to play in the half.
Kentucky would make one first down before being forced to punt again. EKU took over at its own 3 yard line with 3:30 left in the half.
The Colonels punted and Kentucky got a 36-yard return from Barion Brown, giving the Cats the ball at the EKU 24 with 48 seconds left in the half. And the Cats immediately took advantage when Leary hit Tayvion Robinson in the left corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Alex Raynor added the PAT and the game was tied 7-7 with 42 seconds left in the half. The game would be tied at the break.
EKU had the first possession of the second half and the Colonels wasted little time getting into the UK red zone. The Colonels got inside the UK 10 before the Kentucky defense got a stop and forced a 21-yard field goal attempt. Nations would make the kick and the Colonels grabbed a 10-7 lead with 9:41 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky would answer with a scoring drive of its own. UK got a 25-yard pass from Leary to Robinson, followed by a 26-yard run on a reverse from Brown to get inside the EKU 10. Then, on third and goal, Leary connected with Robinson for the duo’s second touchdown of the game. Raynor added the PAT and Kentucky led for the first time, 14-10, with 5:47 left in the third.
On the next possession, EKU would get one first down before being forced to punt. Kentucky would take over at its own 15 yard line with 3:47 to play in the third period. The Cats again would turn to Robinson, this time on a reverse, that the super senior took 56 yards deep into EKU territory. Two plays later, Leary hit Brown in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Raynor added another PAT and Kentucky led 21-10 with 1:47 to play in the third period. That would be the score through three quarters.
Eastern Kentucky quickly responded. McKinney hit Joshua Carter over the middle for a 39-yard game. McKinney then scrambled for six yards on the final play of the third quarter, getting EKU to the UK 24 yard line. The Colonels would get to the nine and that’s when McKinney hit Sloan for a nine-yard touchdown. Nations drilled the PAT and Kentucky’s lead was cut to 21-17 with 12:04 to play.
Kentucky responded with an efficient, six-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Leary throwing his fourth touchdown pass of the day, a 24-yard wheel route to Davis, to increase the UK lead. Raynor added another PAT and the Cats led 28-17 with 8:08 to play.