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Sports Notes: Towles’ performance against Florida makes you wonder if he is the one

UK quarterback Patrick Towles completed just eight for 24 passes with two interceptions and 126 yards against Florida Saturday (UK Athletics Photo)

UK quarterback Patrick Towles completed just eight for 24 passes with two interceptions and 126 yards against Florida Saturday (UK Athletics Photo)


College football teams that aspire to win SEC division championships and become contenders on the national stage do not complete eight of 24 passes with two interceptions for 126 yards in what is considered to be their pivotal game in their season.

Yet those were Patrick Towles’ numbers in Kentucky’s excruciating 14-9 loss to Florida Saturday before the first sellout crowd in the history of the New CWS. It marked a continuation of a pattern that dates back to UK’s game with LSU last year, which began a season-ending six-game losing streak. Towles’ numbers have been off for nine games now.

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Quarterbacks get too much credit when their teams win and way too much blame when their teams lose, but its hard to overlook Towles’ performance when you evaluate the Wildcats’ incomprehensible 29th straight loss to the Gators in what was expected to be the Wildcats’ coming out party.

It was supposed to be Mark Stoops’ signature win, a streak-breaker, a second successive SEC win, the Cats’ third victory of the year without a loss.

A win that would put UK back in the national polls and into the conversation about contenders for the SEC East Division race. A winning season, an upper echelon bowl and vindication of the third year of the Stoops’ regime.

Instead, it was another loss that featured the same old UK story lines: critical turnovers, big plays on defense that were available but not made, overthrown passes to open receivers, dropped passes to open receivers, penalties at critical times. Unimaginative and ineffective play calling.

And twenty nine consecutive losses to one team by a Power Five Conference team.

Is the season over? Not by a long shot after just three games played. Next week’s opponent, Missouri, narrowly escaped an upset bid by Connecticut when the Huskies went for a fake field goal in the waning seconds rather than going for the tie and missed which resulted in a 9-6 loss. After that game comes a matchup with FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky and an SEC game with Auburn, which was blown out by LSU Saturday.

So it’s way too early to declare the season over or a disappointment.

But eight for 24 with two interceptions. Just 126 yards. Florida’s running quarterback, Will Grier, was much more of a threat on offense, rushing for 61 yards and a touchdown and hitting on 13 of 22 passes for 125 yards. Last week against East Carolina, he ran for 10 yards and passed for 151, connecting on 10 of 17 attempts with one interception.

“We talked about it all week. We just needed to play a good, clean football game,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. “And play to our capabilities the best we can. And we didn’t do that tonight and give Florida a lot of credit, because they had a lot to do with that.

“So, they played very good and very disruptive defensively, caused us a lot of problems all night. Really never got in any rhythm or any sync offensively. And again they had a lot to do with that.”

East Carolina (yikes!) torched Florida for 333 yards through the air in a 31-24 loss. Blake Kemp connected on 34 of 54 pass attempts. Obviously, Florida had some previous issues with pass defense. Kentucky’s offensive game plan for the evening wasn’t up to exploiting those issues. Anybody for another run between the tackles?

Patrick Towles is easily Kentucky’s most experienced quarterback. He is attempting to be a team leader, although that’s seldom seen on the field when he hesitates to call out teammates who run the wrong route, don’t react to situations that develop on the field, or simply fail to catch the ball when open.

Redshirt freshman Drew Barker has yet to get a snap over the first three games of the year. If Towles gets off to a slow start against Missouri, that might need to change.

Yes, it’s easy to blame the quarterback when a team under performs, even when it’s just for one game (or two). But Towles was supposed to step up in the mold of Andre Woodson in his third year. So far, it’s not happening and it’s not too early to begin to wonder if Towles is the right quarterback to lead this UK team to the next level.

The Florida game was there to be won and Towles simply wasn’t up to the challenge.

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It was an interesting week for SEC football to say the least.

In addition to Missouri’s ugly win over UConn, Alabama was slammed by Ole Miss by a count of 43-37.

Kentucky’s win on the road against South Carolina was devalued somewhat when the Gamecocks were overwhelmed by Georgia, 52-20. Vandy got its first win of the year with a 47-7 blasting of Austin Peay.

Arkansas lost to Texas Tech by 11 while Tennessee embarrassed West Carolina, 55-10. Mississippi State and Texas A&M were also easy winners.

Georgia, Missouri and Florida remain the only undefeated teams in the SEC East Division while LSU, Texas A&M and Ole Miss are the only unblemished teams in the West.

Key games in the conference next week include Tennessee at Florida, Mississippi State at Auburn, Vandy at Ole Miss, Texas A&M at Arkansas, Missouri at Kentucky and LSU at Syracuse. Kentucky’s game with Mizzou will start at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Six people will be inducted into the University of Louisville Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 23 in the Brown & Williamson Club of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

The list includes Deion Branch, a receiver for the Cardinals’ football team who later was named MVP of the Super Bowl; Herbert Crook, a starting forward on UofL’s 1986 NCAA Championship team who is among the Cardinals’ career scoring and rebounding leaders; Sonya Gubaidulina Karmazin, an All-American volleyball player for the Cardinals who is ninth in career kills at UofL; Christy Hershey Allman, a four-year starter at goalkeeper for the Cardinals’ field hockey team and a two-time All-American; Mark Jurich, an All-American outfielder for the Cardinals who is among the Cardinals career power hitting leaders; and Sara Nord, the Cardinals’ all-time assist leader in women’s basketball.

The event will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and the induction ceremony to follow. Tickets are $45 per person and may be purchased online through “My Cardinal Account” at GoCards.com. Additional information may be obtained via email at ronee@gocards.com or by calling 502-852-2015.

The inductees will also be recognized at the Cardinals’ Oct. 24 homecoming football game against Boston College.

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