Sparked by two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, the Blue defeated the White, 65-50, in the Blue/White Spring Game on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of approximately 5,000 in Commonwealth Stadium.
The game was played in an offense (Blue) vs. defense (White) format in which the offense scored points for first downs, touchdowns, and field goals, while the defense tallied points by stopping the offense and creating turnovers (scoring system at the bottom of the release).
“I thought the scrimmage went pretty well,” Coach Rich Brooks said. “I think people can see athletic plays being made on both sides of the ball. I think it is pretty clear that our defense is a little more aggressive at this point and on their toes a little more rather than on their heels.”
Trailing 50-43 going into the final quarter, senior quarterback Andre’ Woodson put the Blue ahead to stay with a 68-yard touchdown drive. The 14-play scoring march featured six first downs and was capped by a one-yard TD plunge by sophomore fullback Maurice Grinter. On the next possession, redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Hartline ran out the clock with a 65-yard touchdown drive, ended on the game’s final play with a 12-yard scoring pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Terrence Jones
Woodson led the offense by completing 17 of 28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns, although he was intercepted on each of the first two series by sophomore cornerback Trevard Lindley. In the competition for the backup slot behind Woodson, Hartline hit 15 of 24 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown, while redshirt freshman Will Fidler completed 4 of 13 passes for 36 yards.
The balance of UK’s receiving corps was indicated by the fact that four players each caught five passes, including senior wide receiver Keenan Burton, senior tight Jacob Tamme, senior wide receiver Steve Johnson, and junior wide receiver David Jones. Burton had the biggest day, catching five passes for 104 yards.
The ground game was paced by junior Tony Dixon, who carried 11 times for 59 yards and one touchdown. Senior tailback Rafael Little rushed seven times for 31 yards and also caught a 48-yard pass for a TD.
The leading tackler for the White team was sophomore cornerback E. J. Adams, who had eight tackles, including two for loss, and had a pass breakup. Junior linebacker Johnny Williams made seven tackles, including a quarterback sack, and sophomore linebacker Micah Johnson had six stops. The White team intercepted four passes, including two by Lindley, one by sophomore safety Jordan Nevels, and one by junior safety Marcus McClinton, who took the pickoff and threaded his way 75 yards for the touchdown.
“I think some of the interceptions, or some of the bad throws by the quarterback, were pressure or they were getting hit as the ball was released and it kind of fluttered out there,” Brooks said. “I hate that (turnovers) on offense, but I love it on defense. If we hadn’t done that last year on defense we wouldn’t be distributing Music City Bowl Champions rings today. So, we need to continue to be a defense that takes the ball away, but we also need to limit third-down success and we need to limit total production by our opponent’s offense. I see signs that we are more capable of doing that this year than I have in past years simply because I think we have better players.”
The defense got off to a great start with Lindley grabbing interceptions on each of the first two possessions. Followed by several defensive stops, along with McClinton’s touchdown interception return, the defense built a 44-30 lead at halftime.
The offense began its rally in the third quarter with Woodson finding Tamme for an eight-yard touchdown pass. Thanks to Nevels’ interception, however, the White team still led 50-43 at the end of three quarters, setting the stage for the offensive comeback in the final period.
The game marks the end of the 2007 spring practice season. During the next two weeks, the Wildcats will complete spring semester classes and final exams. The team will be off in May, returning in June for summer school and workouts. Practice resumes in August in preparation for the season opener at home vs. Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 1.
Today’s game featured a tribute to the students, staff, families, and friends of Virginia Tech University following the tragedy at that school this week. There was a moment of silence before the game, the Wildcats wore a maroon “VT” logo sticker on one side of their helmets, and the UK coaching staff wore Virginia Tech hats during the game.
The Wildcats received a treat immediately following the game, as the rings commemorating UK’s championship of the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl were presented to the players. Kentucky won the Music City Bowl by defeating Clemson, 28-20, on Dec. 29 in Nashville. It capped an 8-5 season that represented UK’s best record and first bowl win in 22 years.