by Cody Thomas
Saturday night marked the beginning of the 2013 season and the Stoops era and it was an astounding success. The hiring of the new coach has put excitement back into the fans and they came full force on a beautiful spring evening in the Bluegrass. The University announced 50,831 fans poured through the gates to make it a historic day for the program. With a crowd of 4,500 last year, this years number was astounding making them second in the SEC only behind defending champion Alabama’s 2012 spring game. As far as the action on the field the blue team won 24-23 holding off a late rally in the fourth quarter denying the white teams two point try. No one knows when or if they will improve on last years 2-10 debacle but there is no doubt there is excitement around the program. “It was a great night for the program,” Stoops said. “Really appreciate the fan support. Just an unbelievable atmosphere. I was amazed. You felt that. You heard these numbers for the past couple weeks (but) you never know who is going to show up. It was overwhelming. It was fantastic”.
The scrimmage had moments to keep fans interested with a surprise leader for the quarterback position. Jalen Whitlow, a sophomore and who most thought was a long shot for the job won the race for the position making the best of his playing time. When his chance came Whitlow came out of the gate and consistently ran the Neal Brown offense and took it down to the wire leading the team to 3 touchdown drives. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed seven times for 49 yards, despite being whistled down any time a defender even got a hand on his jersey, which proved a difficult task. He showed great athletic ness, elusiveness and the ability to throw many different passes that the new offense will display. This coming after a freshman campaign were he did not do so well as a passer. In an interview Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown told the Courier Journal “He’s done well,” Brown said. “He’s come a long way as a passer. The ball is coming out of his hand nicely. I think he’s learning how to prepare. Getting thrown into the fire, it does one of two things for you. It either damages you, or you really find out what it takes and you come back stronger than ever.” Brown also stated that the starting job is still up for grabs but Whitlow made the other two contenders look regular in their attempt to win the starting bid.
On the defensive side of the ball Za’Darius Smith and Alvin “Bud” Dupree looked good on the first string defensive line keeping the quarterbacks fully aware of their position. The team has size on both sides of the line but depth will be key during the season. The Cats face a highly competitive schedule this year so fans will need to give Stoops and his troops time to get the program in the right direction and not get discouraged if the team isn’t successful this year. There is no doubt that new recruits were intrigued by the fan faithfulness and their enthusiasm. Theres no doubt Stoops and Neal Brown’s Air raid attack which came home will attract talent and bring a winning program to the state. Saturday night the Stoop’s era began and the big blue nation hopes to hear the sirens ring out as touchdowns pour in. Moments like this make me proud to be a Kentucky fan and was glad to take part in an amazing night. As always stay true and blue my friends.