Still No Clear Cut QB After Blue White Game

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach Rich Brooks spent the last
month waiting for Curtis Pulley or Mike Hartline to gain the upper
hand in the battle to be Kentucky's starting quarterback next fall.
Following the duo's nearly identical performances in Kentucky's
annual Blue-White game on Saturday, Brooks is still waiting.
Pulley and Hartline matched each other throw for throw and
nearly run for run during an entertaining wrap-up to spring
practice, with Pulley's 17-yard touchdown run with 1:04 remaining
the difference in the White team's 23-22 victory.
"Nobody has a clear edge at this point," Brooks said. "The
good news is I think they both did some really good things and I
feel confident our offense is not going to fall off the face of the
earth with either one of them at quarterback."
Both players overcame sluggish starts and some sloppy play by
the wide receivers to post respectable if not spectacular numbers.
Pulley completed 12-of-26 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown and
an interception and added 82 yards on the ground. Hartline hit
11-of-28 passes for 124 yards with a pick and a score and added 38
yards and a touchdown rushing.
"I thought I played pretty good," Hartline said. "As far as
the way (offensive coordinator Joker) Phillips is running our
offense, we had a lot of tempo in our offense. We wanted to run the
no-huddle, get up there and keep things clicking very quick and
catch the defense off guard. I think we did a good job with that
and spread it out a couple of times."
Kentucky's depth - something Brooks has been cultivating the
last four years - allowed the Wildcats to play a full-out game
rather than a truncated scrimmage. It allowed Brooks to get a
better look at what he's got heading into training camp in August
as the Wildcats try to qualify for a bowl game for the third
straight year.
Brooks considered the experiment a success, even if it showed
his team has plenty of things to smooth out before the
season-opener at Louisville on Aug. 31, namely at wide receiver.
Though Dicky Lyons was his usual spectacular self - catching 10
passes for 148 yards and two scores - the rest of the receiving
corps had trouble holding onto the ball or getting out of each
other's way.
"We had a couple of dropped balls that need to be caught, no
question," Hartline said.
Pulley, who left the program last semester a year after failing
to take the starting quarterback job away from Andre Woodson,
appeared comfortable running the newly installed spread offense.
Pulley, who said he probably would have graded his performance a
"C or B" nimbly picked his way through trouble when running the
ball and got more comfortable throwing it as the game wore on. It
helped that Lyons pulled in Pulley's "95 mph fastball" for a
12-yard touchdown late in the first half to give the quarterback a
confidence boost.
"I don't know how he caught that," Pulley said. "I just tried
to throw it out there in front of him and he said he just stuck his
arm out and hit him and pulled it in. I was trying to zip it in
there and he made a great catch on it."
When required to make a play late in the fourth quarter, both
Pulley and Hartline came through.
Trailing by a point with 9:36 to play, Hartline led the Blue
team on a 60-yard touchdown drive, the key play a perfectly thrown
bomb to Kyrus Lanxter for a 30-yard gain that brought the ball
inside the 10. Three plays later Hartline faked a handoff and ran
in from two yards out to give the White a 22-17 lead.
Pulley came right back, hitting Lyons for 23 yards then tucking
the ball under his arm on consecutive plays, including the
game-winning run in which he read his blockers to get into the
secondary then raced to the end zone.
"It was big, we were all on the sidelines like 'we've been
playing for an hour-and-a-half and this is what it's going to come
down too,"' Pulley said. "We just wanted to come out and score
and get the win."
The Blue team had one last shot, but Lones Seiber's 46-yard
field goal attempt with 7 seconds left sailed right.
Pulley and Hartline were hardly the only stars. Third-string
quarterback Will Fidler threw for a 57-yard score and running back
Alfonso Smith ran for 170 yards, though he was chastised by Brooks
for dropping a pair of screen passes.
Brooks said he expects to name a starter before the Wildcats
travel to Louisville, but didn't rule out playing both Pulley and
Hartline at some point during the season.
"I think both players are playing at a level where we can win
with both of them," Brooks said. "There's a lot of work to be
done by both of them and by the rest of the team before we get to
that critical decision."