First-Team Offense Improves in Scrimmage

April 16, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The first-team offense made a stronger showing in Kentucky’s second major scrimmage of spring practice, held on a cool and very windy Saturday morning at the Nutter Training Center.

After being restrained for most of the scrimmage on April 10, the first-team offense moved the ball much better and accounted for three touchdowns and a field goal vs. the first-team defense.  Quarterback Morgan Newton threw the ball well, especially considering the frequent high-velocity wind gusts.  Wide receiver Matt Roark and tailback Raymond Sanders turned in impressive performances.  After allowing several sacks the previous week, the offensive line did a much better job of pass protection and opening holes for the running backs.  The pass receivers were more consistent with their catches.

“I really liked the energy and the effort today,” Coach Joker Phillips said afterward.  “The thing we have to do is have total concentration, total focus.  We have to be a more physical football team.  We have to be more consistent on all three of those things.  I thought the offense had some big plays but a lot of yardage was left out there today – backs missing runs, we had a drop (pass), at least one, again way too many yards left out there.

“Defensively, we gave up a couple of big plays but I really like the way those guys are flying around.  They’re not always flying around where they’re supposed to be, but when they do screw up they are running to the football violently.  I like that.  The thing we have to do is have everybody on the same page -- staying in gaps, when we get out of gaps we gave up some big plays.  Same thing on the back end, guys are not reading their keys and a couple of receivers got behind them.

“The overall execution wasn’t where we liked it to be but I think our guys are playing fast, trying to play physical at times and trying to execute the offense and defense,” Phillips concluded.
The first offense came strong out of the gate. Newton opened the scrimmage by driving the team 70 yards for a touchdown. Newton hit tight end Jordan Aumiller for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-8 situation, then found Roark over the middle, who bulled his way into the end zone for a 21-yard TD.

“The offense responded early because last week the defense really smothered them,” Phillips said.  “This week I really liked the way Morgan handled himself in the first series, took the offense down, had a couple of big throws, had a couple of big runs by Raymond Sanders.  We didn’t have any pressure.  After that the defense started getting pressure on us.  We weren’t able to make plays offensively the way we did the first drive.  I thought if you looked at the whole thing, it came out about even today.”

The first-team defense warmed to the task by stopping the offense on five-straight possessions. Defensive end Collins Ukwu made big plays with a quarterback sack and tackle for loss.  One long drive was turned away by an interception from linebacker Ridge Wilson inside the 10-yard line.  Wilson’s pickoff was the only turnover of the day.

In addition to its strong start, the first offense also finished the scrimmage well with two touchdowns and a field goal on the last three possessions.  Starting two drives from midfield, Roark caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Newton, followed by a 22-yard field goal by Craig McIntosh.  Wanting to practice short-field offense and defense, the ball was placed on the defense’s 25-yard line and the offense converted with an eight-yard TD toss from Newton to Aumiller.

Meanwhile, the second-team offense, which drove for three touchdowns last week, had a harder time today.  The second-unit defense stopped the second offense on the first six possessions.  Miles Simpson, playing the hybrid safety/linebacker position, had a sack and tackle for loss and defensive end Justin Henderson ended one drive with a tackle for loss on third down.  

The second offense got on the board late in the scrimmage with a 25-yard field goal from McIntosh.  Again wanting to practice short-field offense and defense, the second offense’s final series began on the defense’s 25-yard line.  After a penalty, quarterback Maxwell Smith connected with tight end Gabe Correll on a 31-yard touchdown pass, the second-consecutive scrimmage that Correll corralled a TD.

The Wildcats have their final practice Wednesday.  The spring session concludes with the Blue/White Game on Saturday, April 23, at 3 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium.