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UK season preview: Bowl loss motivates Eastern Michigan

Editor’s note: This is the second of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season. 

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

GAME 2: Eastern Michigan at Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 7 at Kroger Field, SEC Network

SERIES: Second meeting. Kentucky defeated the Eagles 24-20 in 2017.

COACH: Chris Creighton, sixth season. Record at school: 22-40.

LOOKING BACK: Eastern Michigan finished with a 7-6 record last year and dropped a 23-21 setback to Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl. “It is a new team, a new year, a new season, but that game ripped the hearts out of all of us,” Creighton said. “We knew we were going to win that game. We put so much into that season and to the goal of going to and winning a bowl game. It has absolutely driven our football program since Dec. 16 on. There is no question. We will go make it a positive.”

The Eagles had trouble closing out closing out close games and five or their six setbacks were by seven points or less.  In its last visit to Lexington, Eastern Michigan suffered a four-point loss to the Wildcats at Kroger Field. The team’s trip this season will be part of Heroes Day at Kroger Field.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Eagles have plenty of players back from last season, including quarterback Mike Glass, a junior college transfer, who started eight games. Glass had an efficiency rating of 158.7 and was equally effective on his feet, rushing for 412 yards on 71 rushing attempts. He also recorded six touchdowns on the ground. Running back Shaq Vann also is back, giving Eastern Michigan an experienced rusher in the backfield. Wide receiver Arthur Jackson III will be among Glass’s top targets. He hauled in 46 catches for 592 yards and five touchdowns. Also back are wideouts Mathew Sexton and Line Latu.

The biggest strength for Eastern Michigan was its defense, which led the league in scoring defense at 22.1 points per game. The Eagles also were efficient in total defense (353.8 yards per game) and pass defense (150.2 yards per game).

CONFERENCE: The Eagles are a preseason pick to finish fourth in the western division of the MAC. 

COACH QUOTE: “In the past three years, we have had some positive things happen in the program that we are proud of — those measurable, tangible steps,” Creighton said. “But we have not achieved what we believe we can achieve, so we need another breakthrough. We lost a lot of close games and won some close games, but we believe at our best, we have the chance to compete with anyone in our league.”


Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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