LEXINGTON, Ky. – One week after being dominated in the first scrimmage of spring practice, the Kentucky offensive unit bounced back with a solid performance during an 80-minute scrimmage Saturday morning at Commonwealth Stadium.
Playing against the first-team defense, UK’s first-team offense moved into scoring position on four of its five possessions, coming up with a touchdown and two field goals.
“The performance was better offensively, not as good defensively, but it was because the offense was making more plays than they did a week ago,” Coach Rich Brooks said. “Some guys, individually, showed up all over the field on both sides of the ball. I was very impressed with the hitting, impressed with some playmaking. I think (free safety) Winston Guy continues to show he’s going to be a force for us on defense. At the linebacker position, I was very impressed with (Danny) Trevathan and Sam Maxwell today. I thought they were very, very active. (Defensive tackle) Mark Crawford is doing some good things on the inside as well.
“Randall Cobb obviously is a guy that can make plays (at wide receiver and quarterback). We will continue to try to utilize his playmaking ability. I thought (quarterback Mike) Hartline did a much better job of managing the ball than he did a week ago, keeping it in our possession rather than turning it over.”
On the first possession of the scrimmage, Hartline hit tailback Alfonso Smith with a short pass that Smith turned into a 37-yard gain. The defense stiffened, setting up a 40-yard field goal made by senior kicker Lones Seiber.
Two possessions later, Smith made six productive runs during a ground-based drive that stalled at the 11-yard line. Sophomore kicker Ryan Tydlacka put points on the board with a 29-yard field goal. Later in the scrimmage, Tydlacka finished a drive by the third team by hitting a 50-yard field goal.
The first offense ended the scrimmage with a methodical 15-play touchdown drive. Smith got the movement going with a 16-yard run on a second-and-13 situation. Smith also converted a fourth-down attempt with a determined three-yard run and Hartline converted a third-and-10 situation with a 23-yard strike to Cobb. Smith ran the last four plays of the drive, plunging in from the one-yard line for the score.
“It’s clear that we ran the ball much better this week than we did last week,” Brooks said. “In the early part of the scrimmage we focused a little bit more on the running game. I think Alfonso is showing some really good instincts and playmaking ability.
“I think our line is getting better,” Brooks added. “We still have a ways to go and we’re still experimenting with different combinations in there. Christian (Johnson) was at left guard with the first group and Stuart Hines was at right guard. (Jake) Lanefski is still very much in the mix (at right guard), and I’m interested in looking at the film and grading out all positions, but particularly in the offensive line.”
Today’s first-team offensive line – left tackle Zipp Duncan, Johnson, center Jorge Gonzalez, Hines and right tackle Brad Durham – was obviously much more effective this week in providing room for the running backs. The first offense rushed for 139 yards on 28 carries, averaging five yards per attempt. Smith led the ground game with 15 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown.
Hartline completed 8-of-15 passes for 96 yards. Showing his improved pass-catching ability, Smith picked up 45 yards on two receptions. Cobb, playing in his first scrimmage of the spring, emerged as a primary target by catching four passes for 45 yards.
Cobb’s versatile talents were highlighted on one possession. He caught an inside-screen pass from Hartline and turned it into a 19-yard gain for a first down. Then, Cobb moved to quarterback in the “Wildcat” formation. He threw a bomb to wide receiver Kyrus Lanxter that drew a pass-interference penalty on the defense. Next, he ran for three and seven yards for another first down, putting the Cats into position for a field goal that was missed by a reserve kicker.
Asked about playing an athlete such as Cobb at multiple positions in prior seasons, Brooks said, “I’ve done it some … the one thing that is different about our package (of plays for Cobb at quarterback) is that our guy can throw and I think that’ll be a little bit different problem for defenses. He can run but he can throw it, too.”
The second-team offense scored one touchdown on its four possessions vs. the second-team defense as junior quarterback Will Fidler led a 14-play scoring drive. Fidler completed a 13-yard pass to tailback Coshik Williams on a third-and-nine situation, and Fidler converted a third-and-eight by scrambling eight yards for a first down. Fidler got the offense out of a second-and-22 hole with a 29-yard pass to Williams, then Williams capped the drive with a one-yard run for the TD.
Fidler completed 5-of-10 passes for 62 yards, including three catches for 33 yards by junior wide receiver Michael Harper. Williams rushed 13 times for 49 yards, including the touchdown.
The third-team offense tallied one field goal on its three possessions. Quarterback Tyler Sargent and tailback Trey Bowland combined for a nice mix of running plays, setting up Tydlacka’s successful field goal from 50 yards.
After generating five turnovers in the previous major scrimmage, the Kentucky defensive units did not get any takeaways today. Trevathan had a quarterback sack and a pass breakup. The Wildcats also got sacks from Crawford, sophomore defensive end Chandler Burden and redshirt freshman defensive end Collins Ukwu.
UK’s primary placekickers had a good day. Seiber made his only field-goal attempt and also drilled both extra-point tries. Tydlacka made both of his field-goal attempts. During the special-teams period prior to the scrimmage, Tydlacka punted three times for a 40-yard average, although another punt was deflected by a strong rush.
The Wildcats now head into the final week of spring practice, with workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before capping the spring with the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 25, at 1:30 p.m. in Commonwealth Stadium.
1st offense: Seiber 40 FG
2nd offense: Williams 1 run (Seiber kick)
1st offense: Tydlacka 29 FG
3rd offense: Tydlacka 50 FG
4th offense: A. Smith 1 run (Seiber kick)
Scrimmage statistics; first-team offense vs. first-team defense
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): A. Smith 15-90, 1 TD; Conner 2-21, Allen 8-21, R. Cobb 2-10, Hartline 1-(-3)
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Hartline 8-15-0-96-0
Receiving (no-yds): R. Cobb 4-45, A. Smith 2-45, Lanxter 1-6, Fields 1-0
Scrimmage statistics; second-team offense vs. second-team defense
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): Williams 13-49, 1 TD; Br. Murphy 1-6, Allen 1-2, Fidler 6-(-8)
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Fidler 5-10-0-62-0
Receiving (no-yds): Harper 3-33, Williams 1-29, Adeyemi 1-0
Scrimmage statistics; third-team offense vs. third-team defense
Rushing (att-yds; quarterback rushing includes sack yardage): Bowland 8-26, Sargent 3-12, Phillippi 1-0
Passing (comp-att-int-yds-TD): Sargent 1-3-0-(-1)-0
Receiving (no-yds): Ball 1-(-1)
Spring Practice Calendar: Practices are open to media and fans. Practices are held at the Nutter Training Facility unless noted otherwise. Practices might be moved indoors to the Nutter Field House in case of bad weather.
Mon. April 20 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Wed. April 22 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Fri. April 24 9 to 11:15 a.m. (tentative)
Sat. April 25 Blue/White Spring Game, 1:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium