LEXINGTON, Ky. – It was a day for defense – both in weather and performance – during the Kentucky football team’s one-hour, 10-minute scrimmage Saturday morning at the Nutter Training Facility.
There were 16 offensive possessions during the scrimmage with no scores as the first-, second-, and third-team defenses shut down their respective offensive counterparts. The first-team offense had the ball for eight series of downs, the second team had five series, and the third team had three series. The weather was no help to the offense, as temperatures in the 30s and gusting winds made it difficult to hold onto or throw the ball.
The best offensive movement of the day came when the first teams were on the field. The offense drove to the 18-yard line, but running back Rafael Little was stopped on third-and-one, then stuffed again by linebacker Ben McGrath on fourth-and-inches.
“The defense carried the day weatherwise as well as on the field,” Coach Rich Brooks. “The defense has shown real signs of improvement this spring, running around and playing physically.
“On offense, the running game was inconsistent. Our receivers need to step up and show they can play in this league and so far that hasn’t happened. The quarterbacks haven’t gotten a lot of help from the receivers, so it has been hard to evaluate the passing game. Today wasn’t a good day because of the wind and cold, but the offense must show significant improvement.”
Sophomore Curtis Pulley quarterbacked the first team most of the day, completing 5-of-9 passes for 20 yards. Pulley added 15 rushing yards. Junior Andre’ Woodson guided the second team and completed 6-of-9 passes for 45 yards with that unit. Woodson also quarterbacked the first team on the final possession of the scrimmage. On the last play of the day, he hit wide receiver Joe Joe Brown with a 60-yard bomb for an apparent touchdown, but Brown stepped out of bounds before catching the ball and the play was ruled incomplete.
Freshman Will Fidler quarterbacked the third team and completed two-of-four passes for 21 yards.
Little led the running game with 10 carries for 44 yards and also caught three passes for five yards. Redshirt freshman Antoine Brown, splitting time with the second and third units, ran six times for 31 yards and also snagged two passes for 21 yards. Redshirt freshman Alfonso Smith had seven attempts for 19 yards with the second team. Sophomore Tony Dixon sat out the scrimmage with a strained calf muscle.
Junior wide receiver Sean Murphy was a bright spot for the second team, catching three passes for 20 yards. Junior Keenan Burton and sophomore DeMoreo Ford, perhaps the team’s top two wide receivers, sat out the scrimmage because of injuries.
Defensive coordinator Mike Archer liked his group’s performance today.
“I’m very pleased with how they’ve worked,” Archer said. “They’ve been enthusiastic, shown retention of the system, and are trying to get physical with the offense. They’ve been accountable to each other and to what we expect of them.”
Asked to identify some players who have shown improvement this spring, Archer said, “(Defensive tackle) Myron Pryor has been a pleasant surprise, as he’s gotten in better shape and continued the improvement we saw in him at the end of last season. I like what I saw of (safety) Michael Schwindel today. (Cornerback) Trevard Lindley has done a nice job and will play some.
“(Defensive end) Dominic Lewis is having a good spring. (Defensive line coach) Rick Petri has done a great job with Dominic. Rick has worked diligently with him and he has made a lot of progress.”
Lewis’ scrimmage included a quarterback sack, a tackle for loss on a running play, and a fumble recovery. McGrath recovered a fumble in addition to his stop on the fourth-down play. Defensive end Durrell White had a fumble recovery and defensive tackle Austin Moss also had a sack.
The Wildcats return to the field Monday morning with a workout that will mark the halfway point of spring practice.