Despite the best efforts of a defense that stayed on the field way too much, for the third straight year the Louisville Cardinals took home the Governor’s Cup. And I don’t think that was a surprise to any reasonable member of the Big Blue Nation. What was a bit shocking to some is that the game wasn’t a blow out. As I said, while the loss to Louisville was expected, losing Maxwell Smith in the second half was not. It hurt. Bad. How bad? At one point, Patrick Towles was warming up in the event that Whitlow went down. So where do we go from here?
Against No. 7 Louisville, Jalen Whitlow needed to throw to dig Kentucky out of a two-touchdown hole in the fourth quarter. As he tried, UK starting quarterback Maxwell Smith stood on the sideline, ice wrapped around his throwing shoulder, and watched.
All off-season, the concerns about the top two candidates to run Kentucky’s Air Raid 2.0 attack were easy to identify:
Could the injury-plagued Smith, whose passing skill would seem to best fit the offense, stay on the field?
Could the dual-threat Whitlow, as much as his running ability teased the imagination, throw accurately enough to make the Air Raid go?
In the third week of the season, the conventional wisdom about the UK QB situation proved disturbingly prescient.
Smith got knocked out of the game in the second half with another shoulder injury. Whitlow could not make enough plays through the air to allow Kentucky to really threaten Louisville.
U of L (3-0) claimed the Governor’s Cup for the third straight year with a 27-13 victory over UK before 65,445 fans in Commonwealth Stadium. On a day when the Wildcats defense fought gamely against Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater, Kentucky’s QBs — victimized by at least seven dropped balls — managed to complete only 17 of 37 passes.
“You’re going to struggle to win any football game when you are 17-of-37,” UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.
Now, the Wildcats have an open date before they will play Florida, South Carolina and Alabama back-to-back-to-back.
Smith said he believes his shoulder will be ready by the time UK faces Florida on Sept. 28. But can you count on it?
Whitlow shows promise on the ground, but against good teams, can he throw with enough accuracy to run a system that is predicated on hitting receivers in stride so they can make plays?
For that matter, do you even consider pulling a redshirt off Patrick Towles mid-season for a second straight year?
At a bad time, Kentucky’s quarterback situation is exactly where many feared it would be in the summer — a muddle.
Thankfully we have a bye week coming up for Smith to rest that shoulder but after the game, he took some questions in the locker room. It’s in these types of settings off the field where he displays the leadership that will serve him and the team well.
Head Coach Mark Stoops had this to say in his post game press conference.