LEXINGTON, Ky. – On Friday, after what was termed as the best practice of spring drills, Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips asked his Wildcats to follow up with a competitive scrimmage the next day. The Wildcat head coach got his wish during a two-hour, 15-minute workout Saturday morning at Commonwealth Stadium.
“I asked for a competitive scrimmage and I think we got a competitive scrimmage,” Phillips said. “From where I stand, I told the team that one side may think they won and the other side think they won (but) from where I stood I thought Kentucky won today.
“I thought we got better, kind of a wash (between offense and defense). First-team defense had 13 series, four (touchdown) series, a couple of those on short fields when it started on the (defense’s) 30-yard line. I thought the defense did well. Offense finished strong by scoring on those when we had sudden change (simulated turnovers) and gave them short field and that’s what you have to do.
“I thought both sides competed well,” the coach continued. “Made some big plays on both sides of the ball. We’re starting to find out who our playmakers are. (Wide receiver) Demarco Robinson is becoming one of our playmakers. La’Rod (King) is starting to pick it up and make plays we expect him to make. Maxwell (Smith at quarterback) is playing at a high level, still making mistakes, but he’s starting to play at a higher level every scrimmage.
“On defense, (linebacker) Bud Dupree, we’re excited about him. (Defensive end) Farrington Huguenin continues to play well, had a couple of big sacks. (Defensive back) Martavius Neloms, I’m really proud of Martavius. We’ve put a lot on him, playing a lot of different positions, and I’ve asked him personally to lead this football team defensively and I think he’s trying.
“Still got a lot of work to do. I don’t want anybody to think we have all of a sudden arrived but I’m really pleased with how this day went.”
The scrimmage, which lasted approximately 90 minutes, pitted the first-, second- and third-team offense against their respective counterparts on defense.
The first offense began crisply, driving 70 yards on 13 plays, topped by a 21-yard TD toss from Smith to King. Smith finished the day completing 25 of 38 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns. King was the leading receiver with seven catches for 76 yards and two TDs. Tight end Ronnie Shields and wide receivers E.J. Fields and Demarco Robinson caught four balls each.
The first defense stiffened after that, allowing only one touchdown and a field goal on the next 10 possessions, including seven three-and-outs. The touchdown drive was a 50-yarder, finished by a 15-yard pass from Smith to King. The field goal was a 45-yard boot by kicker Craig McIntosh.
Late in the scrimmage, simulated turnovers gave the offense the ball on the defense’s 30-yard line and Smith capitalized with a pair of touchdown passes to Robinson, 18 and 2 yards.
Meanwhile, the second-team defense kept the second offense out of the end zone on the first six possessions, although McIntosh finished one drive with a 35-yard field goal.
The second offense found its stride late in the scrimmage with touchdown drives of 50, 70 and 30 yards on its final three series. Tailback Jonathan George scored on runs of 18 and 70 yards. He finished the scrimmage with 10 carries for 134 rushing yards.
Second-team quarterback Jacob Russell completed 15 of 26 passes for 166 yards with one touchdown. His scoring play was a short pass to fullback D.J. Warren, who broke tackles and threaded traffic for a 30-yard TD. Tight end Anthony Kendrick was the leading receiver for the second unit with five caches for 72 yards.
The third-team offense ran two series against the third defense and did not score.
Kentucky returns to practice Wednesday and Friday before the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m.