Scout/Jeff Drummond

Sihiem King, Gunnar Hoak play starring roles in Kentucky Wildcats' spring game

Backup running back, quarterback make strong impressions in UK's annual Blue-White Game.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Two players hoping to make a strong impression on the Kentucky coaching staff heading into the 2017 season used the Blue-White Spring Game to do just that.

Junior running back Sihiem King and redshirt freshman quarterback Gunnar Hoak were the offensive stars of the game Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium as the Blue team defeated the White squad 31-14 in front of a crowd estimated at 30,000. 

King, looking to replace Boom Williams as the UK backfield's breakaway threat next season, rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns to highlight the winning Blue squad. 

Hoak, meanwhile, completed 16 of 24 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns splitting time between both squads. The former Ohio prep standout, who is competing with Stephen Johnson and Drew Barker for one of the top spots on the Cats' quarterback depth chart, also rushed for a touchdown.

“You look forward to it all spring," Hoak said of the Blue-White Game. "Everyone does. You look forward to coming out here and competing with everyone, and it’s a game atmosphere.

"I thought I did well. I have to keep getting better through May and come back in June, lift hard, and get ready for camp."

Hoak's development could be important for the Cats, who are unsure about Barker's status moving forward after undergoing back surgery in November. One of the two signal-callers is expected to be Johnson's backup heading into the season.  

"He's been very poised," UK head coach Mark Stoops said of Hoak. "You see he's effortless at times. And I just like the way he handles himself back there. He throws a very catchable football. He's very accurate. The more experience he gets, the better he looks."

Kentucky also got some nice individual defensive performances from a pair of players looking to make their mark. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jamar "Boogie" Watson recorded six tackles, four sacks and a pass break-up splitting time between both squads. Freshman linebacker Jamin Davis had eight tackles for the White squad. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kordell Looney added three tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack for the White. 

The Cats played without defensive star Jordan Jones. The junior All-SEC linebacker was suspended for the game due to being late for a team meeting. 

Overall, Stoops was pleased with what UK got out of its 15 spring practices.

"What I liked most about the entire spring was we were very physical," he said. "We fundamentally needed to get better. You heard me talk about it a lot at certain positions. I felt like we made giant strides."

SCORING SUMMARY:

1Q 4:27 - Snell 3-yard run (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 7, White 0

2Q 9:20 - King 1-yard (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 14, White 0

2Q 3:56 - Ross 10-yard pass from Hoak (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 14, White 7

2Q 0:35 - Thomas 7-yard pass from Hoak (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 14, White 14

3Q 7:47 - MacGinnis 28-yard - Blue 17, White 14

3Q 7:39 - King 4-yard run (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 24, White 14

4Q 0:55 - Hoak 5-yard run (MacGinnis kick) - Blue 31, White 14

In this AllWildcats "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the game...     

WHAT WE LIKED:

Kentucky looks like a team well-equipped to keep the rushing success it established in 2016 going despite the departure of All-SEC center Jon Toth and electric running back Boom Williams. The Cats have the remainder of the O-Line back, plus some talented redshirts, and the backfield appears to be in good hands with Snell back in a starring role and players like King and A.J. Rose (3 carries, 33 yards; 1 catch, 14 yards) emerging as playmakers. Johnson and Hoak also made enough plays through the air to make fans feel good about a balanced offensive approach in Year 2 under UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2 - Turnovers in the game, both by the winning Blue squad -- an interception (cornerback Kei Beckham), and a fumble (cornerback Zy'Aire Hughes strip). 

4.3 - Yards per carry for the Blue squad in the ground game.

7 for 7 - The teams' combined red-zone scoring.

14 - Different receivers caught at least one pass, led by five for junior Ryan Kendall.

47 - Yards rushing allowed by the first-team (Blue) defense.

QUOTABLE:

"Si-fi, he’s a real exclusive guy, real loose. He’s good at making people miss... His vision and how exclusive he is (it's) very special." -- UK running back Benny Snell on backfield mate Sihiem King.

UP NEXT:

Kentucky awaits fall camp and preparation for the 2017 season, which opens Sept. 2 at Southern Miss.   


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