LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky’s second major scrimmage of spring practice, held Saturday morning at Commonwealth Stadium, was remarkably similar to the first – a good start by the offense and a rally by the defense.
The format featured the first-team offense vs. the first-team defense and the second-team units against each other. The ball was placed on the 30-yard line for the majority of the scrimmage, requiring the offense to go 70 yards for a touchdown. Late in the workout was a short-field scrimmage in which the offense was given the ball on the defense’s 25-yard line.
Quarterbacks Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski each played with the first and second teams.
“The offense started off fast, all three of our quarterbacks did some really good things,” Phillips said. “I’m really pleased with what I’m seeing at wide receiver, catching the ball (by) big, physical guys. We have to do a better job on the perimeter blocking at wide receiver. We should be better at blocking because of our big bodies because I think we have some really nice backs.
“Defensively, the thing we did not do is get ourselves off the field on third down and a lot of that had to do with our tackling, especially in the secondary, we have to be better tacklers. Some guys who still continue to progress are Tristian Johnson (defensive end) and Mark Crawford (defensive tackle). I’m really pleased with what Collins Ukwu is doing (at defensive end) and Qua Huzzie (linebacker). Those four guys continue to show up and we still have (linebacker) Danny Trevathan, who shows up a lot, we know he can play. We just have to get more guys around the football and be able to tackle.”
Hartline opened the scrimmage by moving the first-team offense to the 17-yard line before the defense stiffened and Ryan Tydlacka converted a 35-yard field goal. The big play on the drive was a 26-yard scramble by Hartline, showing that he has recovered his mobility after missing almost all of the last eight games of the 2009 season because of an injured knee. On his next series, Hartline drove the second team to paydirt with a 27-yard touchdown run by tailback Donald Russell, who also had a 33-yard pass reception during the drive.
Hartline played just three series on the day, none during the short-field portion of the scrimmage.
Newton drove the first team to a touchdown on his first action, with the TD coming on a two-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Matthews. Newton had two excellent scrambles on that possession, good for 14 and 17 yards. Newton then drove the second team to a touchdown, capped by his own seven-yard scoring scamper. Two passes to wide receiver Matt Roark covered much of the territory on that series.
”Mike continues to play really well,” Phillips said. “He’s ahead of those guys mainly because of knowledge. He has a lot of seasoning. Morgan got us in the end zone a little more today than the other quarterbacks. I really like what he did in moving himself around. The thing he did today was pull the ball down and run for a lot of yards, make something positive when we were covered downfield. That’s the thing he has to do because he’s the type of guy who can make things happen with his legs.
“He (Mossakowski) seemed comfortable today and he made some good plays, too. He didn’t get us in the end zone as much but he continues to progress. I’m really pleased with all three of them, the way they’re playing. We’ve put a huge emphasis on throwing the football this spring and it’s showing, it is definitely showing, because we’re completing passes.”
The defense stiffened in mid-scrimmage, keeping the offense out of the end zone on five-consecutive possessions. The only score during that time was when Mossakowski maneuvered the second team to the nine-yard line, setting up a 27-yard field goal by Tydlacka. The highlight of that drive was a pass to Roark, who leaped over a defender, tipped the pass to himself, and came down with the ball for a 30-yard gain.
The defense continued its momentum into the short-field scrimmage. Even though the offense got the ball on the defense’s 25-yard line, the defense held for three-straight series. Newton broke through with the second-team offense on a one-yard touchdown run. Mossakowski followed with a pair of touchdown drives, featuring a two-yard TD pass to wide receiver Aaron Boyd with the second team and a seven-yard scoring run by Russell with the first team.
Russell had a big day, accounting for 147 yards from the line of scrimmage. He led all rushers with 63 yards on 13 carries and added four receptions for 84 yards.
“Russell showed up a lot more today than he did last week,” Phillips said. “I just like the way Donald ran the ball when he got in open field, made people miss.”
The defense’s improvement from last week showed up primarily in the pass rush. After only one quarterback sack in the previous scrimmage, the defense accounted for three sacks and seven QB hurries that forced incomplete passes. The pass rush also forced the quarterbacks to scramble several times.
“We didn’t protect the passer as well as we have,” Phillips said. “But our quarterbacks did a good job eluding the sack, eluding the rushers and making plays for us. We turned a couple of guys free on our quarterbacks but our quarterback was able to make plays. On defense, we have to get the sack. If you come free, you have to make the play.”
The defense was paced by linebackers Danny Trevathan (six tackles, one sack), Qua Huzzie (six tackles, one for loss, one pass breakup) and Ronnie Sneed (five tackles, one for loss). Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin had a pair of tackles for loss.
On special teams, the placekickers had another good day. Tydlacka and Patrick Simmons made all of their field-goal tries before the scrimmage began. There were two field goals during the scrimmage, with Tydlacka hitting from 35 and 27 yards.
Phillips reported that there were no major injuries during the scrimmage. The Wildcats begin their final week of practice on Monday. Spring drills culminate with the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 24.
Scrimmage Statistics, April 17, 2010 (includes short-field portion of scrimmage; quarterback rushing totals include sacks)
Rushing: Russell 13-63, 1 TD; George 9-57; Newton 7-48, 2 TD; Mossakowski 2-24; Williams 2-11; McCaskill 1-10; Hartline 3-10; Locke 2-4; Sargent 3-2
Passing: Newton 10-16-0, 98 yards, 1 TD; Hartline 7-13-0, 82 yards; Mossakowski 7-17-0, 78 yards, 1 TD; Sargent 1-3-0, 7 yards
Receiving: Russell 4-84; Roark 4-72; King 3-27; McCaskill 2-17; Matthews 2-9, 1 TD; Adams 2-4; Locke 1-12; Kendrick 1-11; Meisner 1-7; George 1-6; Correll 1-6; Cobb 1-6; Boyd 1-2, 1 TD; Fields 1-2