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April 21, 2012

Robinson, Sanders lead starters to win over backups

It was every quarterback's dream. Before Saturday's Blue/White Game, head coach Joker Phillips told his offense to expect about 70 percent of their plays to be passes.

Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith was ready. The Wildcats had been throwing the ball all spring. By the time Smith's team, dubbed "Kentucky" had beaten the "Wildcats" 35-28, he had 45 pass attempts.

That wasn't unusual for spring, though.

"We've been throwing it quite a bit," Smith said. "I think we're going to see more passes in the fall."

And it might not be unusual going forward.

"We've got to be balanced," Phillips said. "We'd like to be a team that has about 80 plays, and we'd like to throw it about 45 of those 80."

Smith finished 29-45 for 353 yards with two touchdowns, both to sophomore receiver Demarco Robinson, to lead the starters to a win over the backups. The backups, dubbed the "Wildcats," started with a 14-0 lead. But it evaporated quickly, as the starters tied the game just before halftime and took the lead for good in the third quarter before an announced crowd of 4,500.

Smith didn't throw more than 36 passes in any game as a true freshman. Saturday, he passed that mark in the third quarter.

Smith also had two interceptions, though one was off a tipped pass. He said he felt encouraged by his performance in spring, but Saturday's scrimmage wasn't one of his better days.

"I'm not looking forward to watching this film," he said.

Robinson, on the hand, was elated with his performance. He had two touchdowns in the last scrimmage as well, and emerged as one of the young receivers the coaches hope can make plays in the fall.

He started the spring as a backup, but played his way onto the first team. Robinson and Smith had been working out together this spring, developing chemistry while building confidence in each other.

"There's something to be said for a guy that every time you have a scrimmage, he makes a play. Demarco Robinson is that guy," Phillips said. "Every time we came into this place, he made a huge play for us. Today he made a lot of big plays for us. We think that he's one of our playmakers.

The backups struck early when quarterback Jacob Russell took off down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown pass, but they were nearly shut out the rest of the way. The Wildcats didn't score again until Russell hit tight end Anthony Kendrick in the back of the end zone with 25 seconds to go and the outcome all but decided.


Seven sacks by the starting defense against the backup offense kept Russell and the Wildcats off balance for most of the day. Russell finished just 8-24 for 96 yards on the day. He had one fewer sack than completion.

Smith and Robinson found a groove early before cooling off late. The first touchdown pass, a 69-yard bomb, came when Robinson beat sophomore Eric Dixon down the sideline. The second came with a minute to go in the first half.

Robinson finished with nine catches for 175 yards. Junior tailback Raymond Sanders had eight carries for 32 yards and two touchdowns to put the game out of reach of the Wildcats.

"His acceleration is just ridiculous," Smith said. "You get the ball in his hands and he can just take off. He loses a guy in no time. Demarco has really good feet - he's like a ballet dancer."

Injury report

Senior wide receiver La'Rod King missed the game with a sprained knee. He's expected to be fine.

Senior cornerback Cartier Rice suffered a thigh bruise early in the game and did not return.


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