Lexington, Ky. — On the brink of letting another game slip away, Kentucky thwarted Eastern Michigan’s last-ditch rally quest on Mike Edwards’ end-zone interception in the final seconds.
The Wildcats made a few clutch plays against the Eagles, which were necessary on a day they again struggled for consistency. And they’ll take moving on from a not-so-pretty win after having to pick up the pieces from their devastating loss to Florida.
“We found ways to win the football game when we didn’t play our very best,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after Kentucky survived Eastern Michigan, 24-20, on Saturday. “There’s no excuse for not playing our best at home. But I appreciate the fact we’re 4-1 because that’s better than 3-2.”
Benny Snell scored on a 12-yard run early in the fourth quarter after Josh Paschal’s blocked punt, to provide a 24-14 cushion. His touchdown followed the second of Kentucky’s big special teams plays that allowed the Wildcats (4-1) to pull away from the Eagles in a closer-than-expected contest against the Mid-American Conference school.
“The third quarter was really frustrating with some special teams miscues,” EMU coach Chris Creighton said. “You know, we didn’t turn the ball over in the first half, but we turned it over there in the second half. And hats off to Kentucky.”
The Wildcats’ first key play was Tristan Yeomans’ recovery of a muffed punt at EMU’s 42, leading to Austin MacGinnis’ 39-yard field goal that broke a 14-all tie late in the third.
EMU (2-2) wasn’t done, getting within four points on Ian Eriksen’s 2-yard touchdown run with 2:34 remaining. A missed extra point forced the Eagles to have to go for a touchdown on their final opportunity, and the Wildcats had plenty of coverage on Brogan Roback’s desperation pass that Edwards had measured all the way.
“I really just tried not to let them score and make the play, really,” Edwards said. “I just went up and got it.”
That play alone showed the Wildcats learned a little something from last week’s 28-27 loss to the No. 21 Gators, who scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter because of communications breakdowns that left receivers uncovered.