LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior running back Sihiem King rushed 19 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Kentucky Blue team topped the UK White squad 31-14 in the Kroger Blue-White Spring Game on Friday night, April 14, at Commonwealth Stadium.
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Redshirt freshman Gunnar Hoak, who logged times for both teams, finished 16-of-24 through the air for 174 yards and a pair of scores. Hoak also rushed three times for 10 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue squad, made up of Kentucky’s first-team players, had 351 yards of total offense, including 231 yards through the air. The White team, which was facing the Wildcats’ first-team defense, was able to manage just 170 yards of offense, including just 47 yards on the ground.
Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson, who led Kentucky to the TaxSlayer Bowl following the 2016 season, was eight-of-18 through the air for 106 yards. Sophomore running back Benny Snell, Kentucky’s leading returning rusher, carried just three times for 22 yards. Snell did score a touchdown.
"It was a good spring," said UK coach Mark Stoops. "It was a good spring game, mainly because we stayed healthy. "A.J. (Rose) will be fine. Nothing serious there. It was more of a neck than a head injury. So that's good. It was a neck strain. He'll be fine. But what I liked most about the entire spring was we were very physical. We fundamentally needed to get better. You heard me talk about it a lot at certain positions. I felt like we made giant strides. Today, again, we were very basic on both sides of the ball. But it was relatively clean football. Physical, but kept guys healthy."
The White team had a chance to score the first points of the game, but Austin MacGinnis was wide right on a 43-yard field goal attempt.
After that miss, the Blue team covered 70 yards in seven plays, ending with a three-yard touchdown run by Snell. MacGinnis added the extra point to make it 7-0 Blue.
The score remained the same until the Blue struck again, early in the second quarter, when King scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge. MacGinnis hit the PAT to extend the Blue team’s lead to 14-0 with 9:20 left in the first half. The scoring drive covered 68 yards in 11 plays.
On its next drive, the White team got on the board when Hoak hit junior wide receiver Kayaune Ross on a 10-yard fade pattern in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. MacGinnis’ point after was good, making it 14-7 Blue team with 3:56 left in the first half.
The Blue team appeared to have one more chance to score before the end of the half, but Johnson was picked off by Kei Beckham, who returned the pick 26 yards, to the Blue team’s 20-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the half. On third-and-goal from the seven yard line with 35 seconds left in the half, Hoak hit Clevan Thomas, Jr. for another score, and MacGinnis’ extra point tied the game at 14-14, which would be the halftime score.
The second half started with a punt by the White team, setting the Blue team up in good field position, at its own 45 yard line. The Blue team drove inside the 10 yard line, but the drive stalled, forcing a 28-yard field goal by MacGinnis, which was good, giving the Blue a 17-14 lead with 7:47 left in the third quarter.
After another punt by the White team, the Blue drove into the White red zone, but Tavin Richardson caught a pass from Luke Wright, but fumbled, and Jack Jackson recovered for the White team, ending the Blue threat.
However, the Blue would get on the board again in the fourth quarter. Hoak, now playing for the Blue team, led the offense on a five-play, 64-yard scoring drive, culminating with a four-yard touchdown run by King. MacGinnis was true on the PAT, making it 24-14 Blue team with 7:39 left. The Blue would add another score late, when Hoak scampered in from yards out. MacGinnis’ extra point would provide the final margin, 31-14.
"We got a lot of work in this spring," said Stoops. "I was very proud of our players, their effort for a long time. We talked last summer about their capacity to handle more. Well, they took a lot of coaching for a long time. We have been in spring ball for six weeks with one week off for spring break. So to keep their attention for that long to be very disciplined, to come in and early in the morning, have lifts meetings on our off days and then practice Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday for five weeks, we got a lot of work in. "I appreciate that effort by our players. We made some strides. We still have a ways to go in certain areas, but I like this team. There's certainly fewer question marks coming out of spring than in years past. So, I feel like there's a lot to build on. Our players need to -- they need a little rest right now. We're going to be in next week Monday and Tuesday finishing up with some meetings with those guys and some evaluations of their spring and before the coaches hit the road and go on the road recruiting. "So, after that, the players will get a little bit of time off. They need it. Then back to the grind, back to lifting and running, so they won't get too much time off. But they put a lot of work in. Appreciate their effort and our coaches' effort."
The Kroger Blue-White Spring Game marks the end of spring practice for the Wildcats, who will open the 2017 regular season on the road, facing Southern Miss on September 2 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Kickoff for that game is set for 4 p.m. and it can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.
UK Athletics Photo