Drew Barker, Denzil Ware highlight offense, defense in Kentucky's Blue-White Spring Game

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Drew Barker threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns and Denzil Ware recorded 15 tackles and four sacks to highlight the offense and defense in Kentucky's Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Barker and Ware (pictured above) led the Blue team, comprised predominantly by first-team players, to a 31-20 victory over the White squad in a performance that mostly pleased UK head coach Mark Stoops. 

"I feel like we made a lot of growth," said Stoops, who is entering his fourth season with the Wildcats. "I feel like our team has grown up a bunch. We have had a longer winter and more strenuous spring, and they really worked hard to keep their concentration and work hard. I thought we wrapped it up with a good, clean game today."

Stoops declared that Barker emerged from spring as the Cats' clear starter at quarterback. The third-year sophomore from Conner High School completed 12 of 18 passes on Saturday, including touchdown strikes of 64 and 19 yards to Ryan Timmons and C.J. Conrad in the first half. That capped the day for Barker, who turned the reins over to junior college transfer Stephen Johnson and UK's other backup quarterbacks in the second half.

"He wants to be great and he’s really locked into what we’re asking him to do," new UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said of Barker.

Kentucky's rushing attack was also impressive, although the Cats were without expected starter Stanley "Boom" Williams, who is recovering from offseason surgery. Sophomore Sihiem King gained 84 yards on nine carries, including a 43-yard run, and scored a touchdown. Senior Jojo Kemp added 66 yards on nine carries.

Said Stoops of King: "What I really like about him is he's really got good vision. We know he has some ability in the open field when he gets some space and you saw that today. But I thought his vision on inside runs was really good to see. So, again, I just see growth. He's a nice complement to some of the other backs."

Jeff Badet led the receiving corps with three catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85-yarder.

"Jeff has had by far his best spring and by far the most consistent 15 days of practice in really five weeks if you count the off days and really doing things right," Stoops said. "That was good to see. And Timmons, as you guys have heard me talk about Ryan, through the course of this spring and that, it was good to see him do it on the field today, in a game situation. Because Ryan's really done some good things."

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jones complemented Ware's big performance with eight tackles of his own and was singled out by Stoops for his strong play all spring.

"I feel very good (about the linebackers)," Stoops said. "We need to continue to get better. We need to continue to get depth. that's never going to change. But Jordan Jones has really played some good football. Courtney Love has really played well, and he's a solid guy. You've heard us talk about his character and his leadership, and then he can play. Guys rally around guys like that. So it's been good to see Denzil really step up. And Josh Allen is getting better and better. So, I think overall we're improving."

Sophomore cornerback Jared Tucker forced the game's lone turnover, picking off a Barker pass in the second quarter. Junior defensive end Alvonte Bell and sophomore linebacker Kobie Walker also had sacks for the defense, which has made generating more pressure on the quarterback a major priority this spring.

Special teams were limited, but junior kicker Austin MacGinnis made a 29-yard field goal and came up just short on a 52-yard attempt.

The game drew a crowd of 28,441 to Commonwealth Stadium. 

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