Cats take ‘step forward’ at first fall scrimmage

It was a familiar refrain this week, that there are only three full-contact scrimmage opportunities during fall camp and, therefore, they need to be taken advantage of.

From the sound of Mark Stoops’ comments after Kentucky’s first such scrimmage, it sounds like the Wildcats indeed did capitalize.

“We got an awful lot of work in today,” Stoops said. “I thought we really did some good things on both sides of the ball.”

UK held the scrimmage in The New CWS just three weeks before the stadium will host its grand opening game after a $120 million renovation. It was closed to the public, but fans should be excited to hear Stoops’ impressions of the offense’s performance.

“Just like the last couple days I’ve mentioned, impressed with what we’re doing offensively,” Stoops said. “I feel like we’re much deeper than we’ve been. Guys are stepping up, making plays. There’s very good balance like we want.”

Stoops was referring to the run and pass, but the same could be said of UK’s quarterback play. Patrick Towles and Drew Barker were effective as they continued their battle for the starting job.

Coming into the scrimmage, Stoops hinted a decision could come soon after. He wasn’t tipping his hand as he left the field and addressed assembled media.

“You know what, they both did very well,” Stoops said. “They both moved the ball at times, so we’ll take a good look at it.”

Stoops praised the offense for both its big-play ability and care of the football, but the defense had its moments as well. There is also ample room for improvement.

“Defensively, for the first live scrimmage we missed a few tackles, got out of position at times, but that’s why you do it,” Stoops said. “That’s why we’re here getting this work in.”

The Cats derived some added benefit from the scrimmage, playing on the new artificial surface that will be their home field beginning Sept. 5. Stoops reported the players liked the speedy surface and, with the exception of one occasion when a receiver extended too far, avoided slipping.

It won’t be the last time they spend on the field during camp.

“We really haven’t used it to this point, but we will,” Stoops said. “We’ll use it as we get into some situations, maybe some night practices, some things like that. But it definitely gives us that opportunity.”

That’s for another day, however. For now, it’s time for film evaluation of the scrimmage and a brief reflection on the first week of camp.

“It was a good, hard, clean scrimmage,” Stoops said. “We weren’t perfect. We’ve got so many things we’ve got to get fixed, but just the effort is good, the attitude is good. We got a good amount of work done this week.”