Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 28-17 win over Eastern Kentucky at Kroger Field:
1. So much for “playing clean.” An unhappy Mark Stoops came out of a miscue-filled opening victory over Ball State all but vowing that the Wildcats would “clean things up” in week two.
Instead, the Wildcats had their first punt of the game blocked to set up a short-field EKU touchdown.
Then UK spent a good bit of the rest of its Saturday afternoon committing costly penalty after costly penalty.
UK finished the game with 10 penalties for 70 yards — which was actually worse than the seven penalties for 51 yards UK committed while beating Ball State 44-14 last Saturday
2. Leary’s encore. In Kentucky’s season-opening victory over Ball State, UK’s Devin Leary did not have the performance expected from a quarterback of his past accomplishments. The former North Carolina State star went 18-of-31 passing for 241 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
In the first half last week, Leary completed eight of 20 passes for 144 yards with the pick, though in half two he completed 10 of 11 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Against Eastern, Leary again started relatively slow. At halftime, he was 14-of-25 for 125 yards with one touchdown throw and one interception.
In half two, however, Leary looked much more like the guy who was a star at North Carolina State.
Leary completed nine of 12 passes in half two for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Leary led the Kentucky offense to TDs on four straight possessions encompassing UK’s final drive of the first half and first three of the second half.
The Kentucky QB finished 24-of-38 for 299 yards with four TD throws and the one interception.
3. The “Tayvion Robinson game.” The Kentucky super-senior seemed to get lost in the offseason publicity buzz that built around UK sophomore receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key.
But with UK in a surprisingly tight game vs. EKU, it was Robinson, the veteran slot receiver, who stepped up big for Kentucky.
Robinson caught six passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He set up a third Kentucky TD with a 56-yard pitch-and-catch on an end-around.
4. Tracking Mark Stoops. With Saturday’s victory, the UK coach is now 8-5 vs. in-state foes — 3-0 vs. EKU; 5-4 vs. Louisville; and 0-1 vs. Western Kentucky.
Stoops is now 10-0 as Kentucky head man vs. opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision — 3-0 vs. EKU, 2-0 vs. Tennessee Martin and 1-0 vs. Alabama State, Austin Peay, Chattanooga, Murray State and Youngstown State.
Under Stoops, UK is 48-25 in games played at Kroger Field.
Kentucky’s all-time winningest football coach, Stoops is 68-59 overall at UK.
With its victory, UK is now 24-2 in the second games of its season since 1998. Over that span, the only times UK has lost is second contest of a football season came in 2016, 45-7 at Florida, and 2020, 42-41 to Mississippi.
5. Eastern does Roy Kidd proud. Playing on the week when the family of the legendary Eastern Kentucky head man announced Kidd had been moved into hospice care, the Colonels did their all-time greatest coach proud with their play.
One week after being strafed 66-13 at Cincinnati, EKU led Kentucky 7-0 for much of the first half and 10-7 in the third quarter.
Walt Wells and his coaching staff brought their team back from that rout and got the Colonels to play with confidence vs. UK.
It is the third straight meeting between the Wildcats and Colonels in which Eastern has led in the second half.
The Wildcats rallied from a 16-10 deficit late in the third quarter to beat Eastern Kentucky 27-16 on Sept. 9, 2017, at Kroger Field.
In 2015, the Colonels were up 27-13 with five minutes left in the game only to see Kentucky stage a last-gasp charge to pull out a 34-27 overtime victory.
On Saturday, EKU led 10-7 until UK went ahead 14-10 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
Eastern Kentucky super-senior quarterback Parker McKinney threw for 219 yards and now has 10,114 career passing yards.
For its second game of 2023, Kentucky wore white helmets, blue jerseys with white letters and numbers and white pants.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 8, 2023
Since the beginning of the 2015 season, this was only the sixth time the Wildcats have worn white-blue-white. Over that time frame, UK is now 4-2 in that color combination.