LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Jalen Whitlow and Rashad Cunningham made plays on offense, and Za'Darius Smith and Ashely Lowery shined on defense, but it may have been those not wearing pads who stole the show Saturday during Kentucky's Blue-White Spring Game.
An estimated crowd of more than 50,000 filed into Commonwealth Stadium to get their first glimpse of UK football under new head coach Mark Stoops. The Blue edged the White 24-23 in an entertaining game that left all involved looking forward to the future.
"I thought it was a great night for the program," Stoops said. "Really appreciate the fan support, just an unbelievable atmosphere. I thought the players played hard. Made some mistakes, but overall, pretty clean game. So, very excited."
Kentucky is coming off a 2-10 season which saw only two home crowds top Saturday's scrimmage figure. The reception left its new coach -- and likely some of the three dozen prospects visiting the Wildcats -- blown away.
"It's remarkable. It really is," Stoops said. "I've said it a few times, but again, I really thank (the fans) for their support and their belief and their passion for this program. It's tremendous."
Whitlow, a sophomore quarterback, completed 17 of 28 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions while playing for both squads. He also rushed for 49 yards on seven carries, although quarterbacks were off-limits for contact, so it was difficult to gauge his night running the ball.
"Jalen did a nice job," Stoops said. "He has that dimension to run the football and pull it down when something is not there and create, so he did. He did a nice job tonight. I was impressed with the way Jalen played."
The other two quarterbacks competing for the starting job, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, did not fare as well on this night. Smith was 11-for-18 for 108 yards, but did not get much going downfield until a 47-yard touchdown strike to receiver Demarco Robinson with 3:20 remaining in the game. Towles finished 6-for-14 for 65 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Sophomore receiver Rashad Cunningham was the surprise offensive star of the game, catching a team-high eight passes for 80 yards and one touchdown for the Blue squad. A.J. Legree caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown for the White team. Robinson added six receptions for 93 yards and a score for White.
Dyshawn Mobley, a sophomore running back, led the Blue ground game with 79 yards on 15 carries. Josh Clemonsh added 56 yards on 10 carries for Blue. Raymond Sanders rushed for 40 yards on 14 carries and scored a touchdown for White.
Senior tight end Patrick Ligon had a touchdown reception for the Blue squad on a 4-yard pass from freshman Reese Phillips. Kickers Joe Mansour and Tanner Blain rounded out the scoring with field goals from 38 and 31 yards, respectively, for each team.
Defensively, junior linebacker Malcolm McDuffen had a game-high eight tackles and one tackle for loss on the White squad. Teammate Thomas Chapman, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle, had four stops and a sack.
The blue squad was led by senior linebacker Avery Williamson with seven tackles, junior defensive end Smith with six tackles and one TFL, and junior safety Lowery with three tackles and an interception.
Huge crowd sees Blue edge White
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