Newton settling in at QB for Kentucky

By The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Morgan Newton had few jitters during Kentucky’s annual Blue-White scrimmage.

His receivers? Not so much.

The junior quarterback looked comfortable and in command of the offense even if his receivers didn’t always cooperate. Newton threw for 256 yards and three scores, though it wasn’t enough to lead the White to victory.

The Blue team, comprised mostly of reserves, held on for a 31-28 victory after being spotted a 14-0 lead to start the game by coach Joker Phillips.

The White team tied it at 28 when Newton hit E.J. Fields for a touchdown but Joe Mansour hit a 38-yard field goal with 47 seconds lift the reserves to victory.

Newton completed 23-of-44 pass attempts and had one interception. Despite the drops, Newton was able to connect on a handful of deep plays, including two that went for 38 yards.

But Newton said the bad plays always overshadow the good.

“That’s something that (offensive coordinator Randy) Sanders isn’t going to let us lose track of,” Newton said. “We had a lot of good plays and we had a lot of different guys that made those plays but there were some bad ones in there we have to eliminate.”

Phillips said he was pleased with how the Wildcats’ defense played after spending all of spring practice learning new co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s defensive schemes.

Minter’s defense primarily calls for five defensive backs on the field, and a handful of starters have switched positions to accommodate.

One that switched positions was Ridge Wilson, a junior who has made the switch from linebacker to a hybrid linebacker-defensive end. He had four tackles Saturday, including two sacks. He said he isn’t 100 percent at the new position but the switch feels like the right place for him.

“It’s not about if I am able to play that position for my body type,” said Wilson, who is 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds. “It’s about learning what to do and when to do it. I feel like the more and more I learn the defense, I can react rather than just keep thinking.”

The game’s format, which Phillips changed at the last minute from an offense-versus-defense format, allowed a lot of second- and third-string players to get reps during the game, including an extended look at second-string quarterback Maxwell Smith.

Smith enrolled at Kentucky in December and will be a freshman in the fall. He finished 10-for-21 for 99 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked seven times.

Wide receiver Brian Adams led all receivers with 121 yards on seven receptions, including two touchdowns from Newton. After the game, he headed a few blocks away to play center field for Kentucky in a baseball game scheduled for 7 p.m. With spring practice now over, Phillips said his team’s No. 1 goal was to establish a bit of consistency amid all that’s changed in the program. For the most part, he said he was pleased.

“A couple of our goals coming into the spring were offensive, leave the spring more efficient into the passing game. I thought at times we were gaining on it,” Phillips said. “Today, if we looked at the stats minus the drops, we have been consistent as ever.”

The Wildcats open the 2011 season on Sept. 1 in Nashville against Western Kentucky.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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