Kentucky Sports

Record UK spring crowd watches Blue beat White 24-23

Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw downfield during the Blue-White football game Saturday in Lexington. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw downfield during the Blue-White football game Saturday in Lexington. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

In the week leading up to the spring game, the talk was about making a lasting impression.

On the coaches, on the fans, on fellow teammates.

Kentucky wanted to leave a lasting impression that could carry through the summer and into fall camp.

Plenty of players were able to do that in the Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, where the Blue team topped the White 24-23.

But perhaps the thing that made the most lasting impression was the record crowd of 50,831 who showed up to watch the final scrimmage of the spring. It more than doubled the previous spring record of 20,325 set in 1987. It was 46,331 more than last season's announced crowd of 4,500.

"You've got to be kidding me. For a practice?" junior Alvin "Bud" Dupree remembered thinking.

Same with fellow defensive end Za'Darius Smith: "My heart dropped," the junior-college transfer said. "It just jumped like, 'Oh man.' I was kind of nervous. I had chills. I had to get over it to make more plays."

Smith and Dupree were two of many who made plays for the Cats, who struggled to find many play-makers last season when they went 2-10 and winless in the Southeastern Conference.

Coordinators and head coach Mark Stoops all rolled off names of players who made lasting impressions, who got a rise out of the big crowd at Commonwealth.

Stoops talked about finding leaders on both sides of the ball.

That huge crowd, the largest of any SEC spring game attendance so far this season, saw a huge pre-game Cat Walk and the return of the Air Raid siren.

The scoreboard winner for the night was the Blue team, comprised of the first-team defense and the second-team offense. The only players not classified or playing exclusively for one team were the quarterbacks, who each showed flashes of solid play.

But the quarterback who set off the siren the most was Whitlow, who led the Cats (playing for both the Blue and White teams) on three touchdown drives. He completed 17 of his 28 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore from Alabama also ran seven times for 50 yards to lead UK.

"He's done well now," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "He really has. He's come a long way as a passer. The balls came out of his hand nicely. He's learned how to prepare."

Whitlow's two passing scores were of 16 yards to A.J. Legree and another for 16 yards to DeMarcus Sweat that put the Blue team up 17-10 late in the third quarter.

Maxwell Smith was 11-for-18 for 108 yards, including a pretty 47-yard pass to Demarco Robinson late in the game. Patrick Towles went 6-for-14 for 65 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

Even true freshman Reese Phillips got in on the act late, completing 10 of his 12 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

"All three of them did some good things tonight," Brown said. "I thought the rookie did as well as anybody. I thought he came out and performed well."

But Brown was happy with the offense as a whole. He wants a faster tempo (crazy for a collective group that managed 140 plays), but he found some players that impressed.

Dyshawn Mobley had 15 carries for 79 yards and Josh Clemons, who sat out last season rehabbing a knee injury, added 10 rushes for 56 yards for the Blue team.

"Josh Clemons really looked good," Brown said. "He made a couple of really nice cuts and that was the thing that stuck out to me as much as anything. He made some plays."

The wide receivers, a thin and much-maligned group this spring, may have found some play-makers of their own. Sophomore Rashad Cunningham had eight catches for 80 yards and a score.

"I was really proud of him," Brown said. "I thought he was the player of the game on offense. ... I was really proud of him and the way he performed tonight."

Legree added seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Robinson had six grabs for 93 yards.

Macolm McDuffen led all defenders with eight tackles. Avery Williamson and Demarius Rancifer added seven each for their respective defenses. Smith had six tackles, including one for a loss.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot was pleased with the first-string defense, but said the group overall has to develop more depth.

But the thing that left the lasting impression wasn't hard to pinpoint.

Not for the head coach, especially.

"I was amazed," Stoops said of the record crowd. "You heard these numbers for the past couple weeks, and you know, you never know who is going to show up. It was overwhelming. It was fantastic."

2013 Kentucky schedule

(Home games in capital letters; times TBA)

Aug. 31 x-vs. Western Kentucky

Sept. 7Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 14Louisville

Sept. 28Florida

Oct. 5 at South Carolina

Oct. 12Alabama

Oct. 26 at Mississippi St.

Nov. 2Alabama State

Nov. 9Missouri

Nov. 16 at Vanderbilt

Nov. 23 at Georgia

Nov. 30Tennessee

x-at Nashville

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