Quarterback Stephen Johnson looks to throw during a recent practice ― Johnson and the Wildcats square off vs. EKU at noon ET inside Kroger Field ― Photo by Keyli Chisesi (Go Big Blue Country)
Tomorrow marks the first game in what is now known as Kroger Field, as Eastern Kentucky makes the short drive up I-75 to face the Wildcats. The last time the Wildcats and Colonels battled, EKU nearly pulled off the upset, as Kentucky needed overtime to escape with a victory. Picking the Colonels to pull the upset this time would be a bold prediction, one that I do not think will happen, but lets take a look at some bold predictions for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats shut out EKU
You had to go back to 2009 to find the last time Kentucky held an opponent scoreless. In the season opener, the Wildcats held Miami (OH) scoreless in a 42-0 victory. During that game, the Kentucky defense made two big interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the Wildcat defense impressed in a season opening victory vs. Southern Miss. The defensive front was disruptive, specifically “Blitz Brothers” Denzil Ware and Josh Allen. For the Wildcats to shut out the Colonels, the secondary will have to tighten up and make plays.
Stephen Johnson throws for 300+ yards
Not that I don’t think Johnson isn’t capable of doing this, because I think he has that type of potential if given the opportunity. However, it’s doubtful Eddie Gran opens up the offense that much.
Last week Johnson finished 11-20 with 176 passing yards and one touchdown, adding a rushing touchdown on an 8-yard QB keeper. The offense ran 55 plays, something that needs to increase if they want to give their defense a break.
Johnson achieved 300 or more yards twice last season, reaching 310 vs. New Mexico State and 338 yards vs. Louisville. The question is how much will Eddie Gran allow the UK senior to drop back and throw? Johnson has only gone beyond 30 pass attempts twice in 12 games. Fans would love to see Gran open up the offense and allow Johnson to sling it around more often.
Benny Snell reaches 100 yards by halftime
Benny Snell Jr. hasn’t surpassed 100 yards rushing in his last three games, matching the longest streak of his young career. Over the last three games vs. Louisville, Georgia Tech and Southern Miss, Snell has rushed for 51, 34, and 67, while only reaching the end zone one time.
Expect the 5-11 sophomore to get back on track this week. It would be nice to see Snell reach 100 yards in the first half and find the end zone a couple of times. Eddie Gran wants to get the ground game moving, ahead of next week’s SEC opener vs. South Carolina. Look for a heavy dose of Snell early on.
A strong first half by Snell and a comfortable lead, could allow Gran to get some younger guys touches. A number two back has to emerge behind Snell if the Wildcats want to have a solid ground attack. Look for the ground game to get rolling early, leading to Gran experimenting with the backup spot during the 2nd half.