Kentucky football open practice

Kentucky football open practice on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

UK football defensive coordinator Brad White and select players hit the podium after practice Wednesday afternoon to discuss their preparation for this Saturday night's matchup against the visiting Eastern Michigan University Eagles.

White emphasized the importance of making stops on third down. The Cats' defense allowed Toledo to go 5-for-8 on third down in the first half of last week's season opener before limiting them in the second half. 

"We have to, have to, have to get off the field on third down. First and second down efficiency, we were pretty solid, but that does you no good if you can't get off on third down," White said. "They [EMU] do a nice job of giving the high percentage throws to get in rhythm early. Their receivers have strong hands. They're really, really well coached." 

Outside linebacker Jamar "Boogie" Watson echoed White's emphasis on third down stops. He said that last week's game keeps him "grounded" in order to stay competitive and focused. 

"That was our focus today. If we clean up our third downs, we know we got a lot of three-and-outs going," Watson said. "We know we have a lot of new faces in the back end and it's our first game under the lights, so we have to make sure we are communicating." 

Communication is another focus point that players like safety Jordan Griffin say has been something the defense has been improving on in practice. The de facto leader of the Cats' young, inexperienced secondary, that was something he's been mentioning since Saturday's win

"Communicating is one of the biggest things we've talked about. Once we have that down we will be good," Griffin said. "When you bring a team that is a young team or lacks some kind of experience, [jitters] are something you will expect."

The Cats' defense allowed 312 total yards from EMU's offense during their last matchup in 2017. However, they limited the Eagles to 13 net rushing yards, which was the lowest for a Cats' opponent ever since the Cats held Samford to -2 in 2012. Expect to see the Cats outdo their passing defense from that game and replicate that same rushing defense.