History was made tonight when the #BBN answered Coach Stoops’ call to Pack Commonwealth Stadium. With an early attendance estimate of 50,381, tonight felt more like September than April. People were actually standing in line at the gates an hour and a half before the game even started. UK Legends like Tim Couch and Joe B. Hall were there to show their support for the upstart program, impressing the 50+ recruits in attendance. The fan fare was phenomenal and the play on the field wasn’t too shabby either. The Blue Team (1st defense, 2nd offense) got the W after the White Squad failed to convert a 2-point conversion with 3 minutes to play. Here’s how the game looked from the press box…
– The coaching staff had been pushing offensive tempo the entire Spring, and it showed on the field tonight. After each play, the offense was on the line almost immediately, making it difficult for the defense and my fingers to keep up. There is still some fine tuning to be done in order for this fast pace to work. With QBs rotating between both teams, there were a few times when miscommunication between QB and WR was obvious. Finding a consistent offensive rhythm was difficult at times but they still found a way to make plays. Once everyone gets on the same page, the pace will be very problematic for opposing teams. Not too many defenses will have enough gas to put together 4 quarters of complete football against an offense that doesn’t stop.
– Today the fan base had the chance to see which QB looked most suitable in Neal Brown’s Air Raid. Even though it was difficult for them to find a rhythm, the obvious standout was Jalen Whitlow. Whitlow looked very comfortable moving around in the pocket, and picked up some good yards running the ball down the field. Every QB found the end zone (Freshmen Reese Phillips included), but Whitlow was the only one to throw more than one TD (he had 2 of em). It’s a possibility that we may see the Wit-Throw in the Air Raid next fall.
– The Cats started the game off pretty funky. With 3 QBs in the game, Raymond Sanders took the direct snap out of the Wildcat. Jalen Whitlow said after the game, “we wanted to do something fun for the crowd.”
– The return of Josh Clemons will be a blessing to this young team. The power back hasn’t seen game action in nearly 18 months after tearing his meniscus, giving Clemons plenty of time to get huge in the weight room. Even though Clemons has probably added 15-20 pounds of muscle, he hasn’t lost any of his speed or agility. He worked diligently to improve his receiving game this Spring and it paid off tonight. On back-to-back plays, Clemons caught swing passes out of the backfield before breaking a defender’s ankles and gaining 10 yards. The QBs will have a much lighter load to carry with Clemons in their backfield.
– Za’Darius Smith gave the fans everything they wanted and more. His name was called early and often because he simply could not be blocked. There is no doubt that Z will be a game-changer in the fall.
– Today was the most important ‘moving day’ this Spring, with many player’s vying to move up the depth chart before the arrival of new recruits in the fall. Rashad Cunningham was probably the most pleasant surprise, catching 8 passes for 81 yards and a TD. The big target has always had the great WR ‘look’, but hadn’t put together a great performance until today. AJ Legree reeled in multiple catches, and showed great athleticism in the open field on a couple of screen passes. TE Tyler Robinson had a few big catches, proving himself to be a reliable target. SR TE Patrick Ligon was the biggest surprise of the day. I had honestly never heard of the guy until he reeled in a big 20 yard catch, followed by a TD from Reese Phillips.
– While there were many great things that happened on the field, nothing can be compared to the change in the atmosphere around Commonwealth today. You could truly feel the buzz around the Stadium before kickoff; something I hadn’t felt at Commonwealth since 2007. Fans young and old were excited to see their team on the field, AND IT WAS A SPRING GAME! Coach Stoops cannot develop a winning attitude overnight, but tonight was the first step.