Monday, September 24, 2012
Wildcats hope Maxwell Smith can play Saturday but are preparing for alternative
Maxwell Smith throws a pass against Western Kentucky. (Photo by Jon Hale)
When UK’s sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith threw four interceptions against Western Kentucky, some might have wondered if his first two successful weeks at the helm of the fast-paced Wildcat offense were a fluke.
But after watching the Wildcats compile only 60 passing yards in a 38-0 loss to Florida without him, it appears difficult to overstate Smith’s importance to the UK offense.
After the loss, UK head coach Joker Phillips said Smith wanted to play against the Gators but the coaching staff determined the risk of him reinsuring his bruised shoulder was too great.
Phillips hopes to have Smith back for UK’s game against South Carolina Saturday.
“He was a lot further along on Sunday than he was last Sunday, obviously,” Phillips said. “A lot of it had to do with us not playing him this week.”
Smith bruised the shoulder on the game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter against Western Kentucky. He stayed in that game on UK’s scoring drive in overtime but did not throw during the first two days of practice before the Florida game.
Smith threw at Thursday’s practice and Phillips told reporters he was not worried about him, but after practice a trainer informed Phillips of the risk that Smith might be hurt worse if he reinjured the shoulder against Florida.
Phillips decided on Friday that he would instead start senior Morgan Newton against the Gators.
“I was treating him like he was (my son), like you guys would want your son to be treated,” Phillips said.
Newton struggled mightily against Florida. He completed seven of 21 pass attempts for 48 yards and three interceptions before being pulled in favor of freshman Jalen Whitlow in the fourth quarter.
Florida totaled more yards on interceptions returns, 65, than UK did on Newton’s competitions.
Phillips said coaches had actually been prepping Whitlow to be the backup since the season opener against Louisville, but they decided he wasn’t ready for the atmosphere he would face at Florida.
“We just felt like we wanted to start Morgan,” he said. “We did, and it didn’t work out. He didn’t play as well as we would have liked, but we still think that was the right decision.”
With the game well out of hand, Whitlow completed one of six pass attempts for 12 yards against Florida. He added one run for three yards.
Phillips said he could not yet commit to a starter against South Carolina in the event Smith is not able to play, but he acknowledged Whitlow would be the likely choice.
“I think Jalen would probably deserve (to start) based on the way we performed Saturday,” he said. “We’ve got to go through this week and see how everything works out.”
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, at least one Wildcat is not looking for the No. 6 Gamecocks to take it easy Saturday.
“We understand no team is going to back off just because we’ve had a slow start to the season,” said senior center Matt Smith. “It’s not like South Carolina is going to feel bad for us. They shouldn’t.”
Phillips said junior defensive tackle Mister Cobble has left the hospital after being admitted Friday with an infection in his wrists and knees, but he is listed as doubtful to play this week as he works to regain strength lost from the illness…Phillips also listed senior tight end Gabe Correll, redshirt freshman safety Josh Forrest and junior tight end Jordan Aumiller as doubtful to play against South Carolina. He listed senior tailback CoShik Williams, junior offensive tackle Kevin Mitchell, sophomore safety Ashely Lowery, senior cornerback Cartier Rice and Maxwell Smith as questionable…Senior Craig McIntosh is now 2-6 on field goal attempts this season, but Phillips says he has not lost confidence in the kicker. “I told him this year he’s going to have to go in and kick a field goal to help us win,” Phillips said. “I really believe that.”