UK Football

UK football: Sloppy play rains on a fun Fan Day

John Schlarman, Kentucky's offensive line coach, talked with his players during the open practice portion of Kentucky football's Fan Day Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium.
John Schlarman, Kentucky's offensive line coach, talked with his players during the open practice portion of Kentucky football's Fan Day Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium. Herald-Leader

Matt Gallagher slammed his poster down on Mark Stoops' table and smiled.

"That's the longest line I've ever stood in for UK football," he told the new Kentucky coach as the crowd of hundreds continued to wait behind him, looping part of the way around Commonwealth Stadium for Fan Day festivities.

Gallagher said he was happy to wait and more than happy to drive more than an hour from Louisville in a "monsoon" to have a chance to get autographs.

"It was all worth it," he said, holding up his poster, signed by the head coach and coordinators D.J. Eliot and Neal Brown.

After the nearly two-hour practice at the stadium, Stoops wished his team had shown the fans who endured the rain its best side.

For the first time this fall camp, the head coach was disappointed in his team's "average day."

"A little bit sloppy today," he told a crowd of media afterward. "Getting in the stadium. It was our first time practicing in the stadium, just the whole organization. Everything. We weren't as crisp as we have been."

Lightning on its way caused the coach to nix a punt period, too.

But he admitted it was the first time he'd left a fall practice frustrated.

"It was the first practice I could walk off and be disappointed," he said. "I just don't think the energy was great. I don't think our concentration was great. I don't think we executed as well as we have. We dropped balls. Just overall sloppy."

When asked, jokingly, if signing hundreds of autographs might have been the low energy culprit, Stoops didn't bite.

"I don't know, but it doesn't matter," he said. "We need to play better. We'll see how it goes."

The autograph signing didn't disappoint the coach, though.

"It was, once again, very good fan support," he said. "To come sign autographs for a couple hours and hang around the whole practice, it's great to see."

Kentucky officials said the first guy took his spot at the front of the line for Stoops' autograph at 1:45 p.m., a full four hours before the signing was to commence.

He had two extra boxes of Sharpies sitting on the table next to him, as if he was getting ready to sign a bill into law.

Balls, posters, T-shirts, jerseys, mini helmets. Stoops signed all of that and more. He had to stand up and stretch his legs as the line continued to stretch out past the stadium gates.

All over the stadium concourses were the sights and smells and sounds of a game atmosphere, except the game was to collect the most Cat scratches.

The table of four quarterbacks Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow and Reese Phillips — with their highly touted big arms — needed every muscle to sign for the line of fans that stretched from one corner of the stadium nearly to the next.

Every position group had a table and every table had a line.

"It's a little different to come out here and sign autographs for a while, go in, then get dressed and come out, but doesn't matter," Stoops said. "No excuses. Just not acceptable practice and we have to get better."


Defensive end Za'Darius Smith didn't practice and had his left ankle in a walking boot.

"He rolled it yesterday a little bit," Stoops said. "It was a little sore today, day to day. I don't think it will be anything major."

Defensive linemen Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph also didn't go with the first team on Friday. Stoops said both were still a little banged up.

"We need those guys to be healthy, he said of the seniors. "They'll be out there. They've been practicing. They're good. There's nothing major there."

One group that did catch Stoops' eye yet again was the group of incoming receivers.

"They've been impressive the whole time, they really have," he said. "What I noticed today, just with the naked eye so far, it looked like they had a decent day, the young receivers."

The coach had nothing to add on the three-way quarterback battle. He said not to read anything into who was taking snaps with the first team or second team. This night it was Smith.

"Everybody gets a day," Stoops said. "We're rotating (who is first-string) every day."

Season opener: Aug. 31 vs. Western Ky. at Nashville

Home opener: Sept. 7 vs. Miami (Ohio)

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