LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s being billed as Friday Night Lights as Kentucky will hold its annual spring game on Friday night as opposed to a traditional Saturday afternoon kickoff.
Attendance at Kentucky spring games have surged in coach Mark Stoops’ tenure, and this year’s crowd is expected to eclipse last season’s.
About 32,000 tickets had been allotted for the 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff, as of Thursday afternoon, according to a UK spokesperson, and walk-ups are anticipated. Tickets available on game day can be picked up for free at the stadium ticket office before kickoff, according to a release.
Stoops’ first spring game as coach in 2013 drew a record announced attendance of 50,381. The next year produced the second-biggest crowd, 35,117. There wasn’t a spring game in 2015 because of construction at Commonwealth Stadium.
The lowest announced spring game attendance in Stoops’ tenure was last year: 28,441. But even that number dwarfs the 4,500 estimate in 2012 — the year before Stoops arrived.
This year’s spring game will be an abbreviated version. Special teams will be simulated.
“We’ve got to look at it with numbers but I believe we’re going to do it a lot like last year,” Stoops said. “Just put the 1s and some replacements on one side and the 2s and 3s on the other.”
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said 100 percent effort and technique would qualify as a successful spring game for his players.
“Spring games, I love them and they’re great,” Gran said. “I can’t wait to see all the fans. Love the support. But at the end of the day, the meat and the potatoes are done. It’s going to be very basic. Let’s line up and be 100 percent on assignment.”
Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson and sophomore running back Benny Snell will lead the first-team offense. Junior quarterback Drew Barker is likely to be held out; the coaching staff doesn’t want to risk an injury to his back.