Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky football’s Blue-White Game

Instant analysis from the Blue Team’s (the starters) 64-10 win over the White Team (reserves) in the 2019 Kentucky Wildcats football Blue-White Spring Game:

How the game was won

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson completed 9-of-10 first half passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns as the Blue Team opened a 38-7 halftime lead and won in a romp.

Game balls

1. Terry Wilson. Looked like a returning QB starter should in a spring game against a team of backups heavy on freshmen and walk-ons.

2. Gunnar Hoak. The UK backup QB — who could exit as a graduate transfer after the spring semester — completed 14 of 15 throws for 174 yards and two TDs in relief of Wilson for the Blue Team. Hoak was 9-of-15 passing for the White Team.

3. Explosive plays from UK wideouts. Flanker Lynn Bowden (42-yard touchdown catch) and outside receiver Isaiah Epps (60-yard gain) both had the kind of explosive plays on deep post patterns that have been missing from the Kentucky offense since 2016.

4. Kentucky running backs. Expected starter AJ Rose looked good. Redshirt freshman Kavosiey Smoke broke off the night’s longest play. Redshirt freshman Christopher Rodriguez ran tough and scored a touchdown for the White Team.

5. Chance Poore. The redshirt freshman place-kicker boomed a 52-yard field (albeit without a rush).

6. Davonte Robinson. Safety from Henry Clay (game-high eight tackles) picked up where he left off from late last season.

7. Jared Casey. The outside linebacker from Ballard (five tackles, three solo) looked very much like a player who will see meaningful snaps as a true freshman this fall.

8. Bryce Oliver. Running mostly with the White Team, the redshirt freshman receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., made some plays (five catches for 63 yards for White Team; three catches for 42 for the Blue).

Reasons for worry

1. No one should worry about the spring football game.

Key number(s)

57-of-84 and 638. In four UK Blue-White Games, quarterback Gunnar Hoak has completed 57 of 84 passes for 638 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Fashion police

The Blue Team wore blue helmets, blue jerseys with white letters and numbers and white pants. The White Team wore blue helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numbers and white pants. The quarterbacks and kicking specialists wore blue helmets, anthracite jerseys with white letters and numbers and anthracite pants.

The atmosphere

1. As usual, Kentucky hosted a small army of recruits for its spring football game.

2. UK cheerleader Braxton Smith sand the national anthem.

3. Wildcats football all-time great Art Still was chosen to bang “The Big Blue Drum” (literally as it sounds) which is apparently going to become a new pregame ritual at Kentucky football contests.

4. Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops stood on the field, behind the offensive teams, throughout the spring game.

5. Benny Snell, UK’s all-time leading rusher and one of the stars of last season’s 10-3, Citrus Bowl champions, was shown on the Kroger Field video boards between the first and second quarters. Snell was on the sideline, dancing.

Up next

Kentucky (10-3 in 2018) will open its 2019 season against Mid-American Conference foe Toledo (7-6 in 2018) on Aug. 31 at Kroger Field.

The Rockets ended their 2018 season with a 35-32 loss to Florida International in the Bahamas Bowl.

This will be the first football game ever between Kentucky and Toledo.

Know your foe

1. When Matt Campbell left Toledo to become head coach at Iowa State following the 2015 season, the Rockets promoted offensive coordinator Jason Candle to the top spot. In three seasons since, Candle is 28-13 as Toledo head coach with a 2017 Mid-American Conference championship and three bowl trips.

2. Toledo loses four offensive starters, including star wideouts Cody Thompson and Jon’Vea Johnson, to graduation. The Rockets also graduate six defensive starters. However, Toledo hopes to get starting quarterback Mitchell Guadagni back from injury. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior-to-be was sidelined after seven games in 2018 with a broken collarbone. A dual threat, Guadagni threw for 1,053 yards and 13 touchdowns (with only three interceptions) and ran for 428 yards and three scores before being hurt.

After Guadagni was lost for the season, junior Eli Peters started six games and threw for 1,837 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 55.1 percent.

3. A familiar face should play a major role for Toledo at Kroger Field. Running back Bryant Koback, who sat out the 2017 season at Kentucky as a redshirt freshman before transferring, was the leading rusher (917 yards, 14 touchdowns) for the Rockets in 2018.

The production of Koback, a 6-foot, 193-pound product of Holland, Ohio, was pretty much the “tell” between Toledo wins and losses in 2018. In the Rockets’ seven victories, Koback ran for 679 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, in Toledo’s six defeats, Koback ran for only 234 yards and two TDs.


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.