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Kentucky fends off FCS Eastern Kentucky, 28-17

Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Tayvion Robinson (9) celebrates his touchdown which helped pull the Wildcats even with Eastern Kentucky late in the second quarter Saturday. Sept. 9, 2023.
Credit: Matt Stone/Louisville Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Devin Leary passed for 243 yards and four touchdowns, Tayvion Robinson caught a pair of scores, and Kentucky shrugged off a poor first half to beat the visiting Eastern Kentucky Colonels 28-17 in Lexington, Ky.

Favored by 35 1/2 points, the Wildcats (2-0) built a two-score lead twice in the second half to remain perfect in six meetings with the Colonels since 1978.

Leary went 23 of 37 and was picked off once in his second UK start. Wide receivers Barion Brown and Robinson had 152 and 150 all-purpose yards, respectively. Ray Davis rushed for 52 yards on 12 carries and caught a TD for Kentucky.

Senior quarterback Parker McKinney was 19 of 29 for 219 yards, with one rushing and passing TD for the Colonels (0-2), a Football Championship Subdivision team. Running back Braedon Sloan (48 yards) caught a TD pass.

Kentucky received a jolt at the end of its first series when Colonels linebacker Cornelius Evans broke through and blocked Wilson Berry’s punt, setting up the visitors at the UK 30.

On 3rd-and-eight, McKinney scrambled 14 yards for a TD, giving EKU a 7-0 lead over the Southeastern Conference school.

Along with four punts, the Kentucky offense turned the ball over on an interception and on downs once in the first half before Brown’s 36-yard punt return set the ball up on the EKU 24 with 48 seconds left.

Leary stepped back and found Robinson on the next play in the back of the end zone for a 7-all halftime score.

On his squad’s first drive of the second half, Patrick Nations gave EKU a 10-7 lead with a 21-yard field goal to cap a 10-play, 71-yard drive.

Leary’s second TD pass to Robinson, a 6-yard slant at 5:47 of the third quarter, put the Wildcats ahead for the first time. He added a 13-yarder to Brown for a 21-10 lead.

Early in the fourth quarter, McKinney cut the deficit to 21-17 when he hit Sloan over the middle from nine yards.

But UK answered on the next series when Leary connected with Davis on a 24-yard score at 8:08.

–Field Level Media