Kentucky-Florida notes: Short memory helps QB Smith move forward

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 21, 2012 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

In the course of 20 minutes, Maxwell Smith went from feeling pretty good about himself to wondering what happened.

The sophomore quarterback had started the season without an interception, gone 105 passes without a pick, before Western Kentucky's Brett Harrington plucked one out of the air last Saturday.

Jonathan Dowling intercepted three more Smith passes in the Cats' loss.

"We had one bad decision, one bad throw, a miscommunication and a big-time play by one of their guys," UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "Obviously, we've got to eliminate those things, but the one thing Max normally does is he throws it where he wants it to go."

Smith, who went 37-for-61 for 332 yards and two touchdowns against WKU, said he was able to put the mistakes in his rear-view mirror eventually.

"That's what we have to do as quarterbacks is just forget everything bad that happened on previous drives," he said. "It is hard, but I feel like it's something I'm pretty good at."

Sanders said he was happy to see Smith bounce back and not hesitate on throws the rest of the game.

"I thought the guy competed," Sanders said. "That's the thing about quarterback. You can play 78 plays really good and four bad ones and you get beat. ... So you've got to try to eliminate those negatives, but I always try to teach them and preach to them that the most important play in football is the next one."

Despite the interceptions, Smith is third in the nation in per-game completions, connecting on 68.5 percent of his throws for 966 yards and eight touchdowns.

Neither Morgan Newton nor Smith threw for more than 819 yards last season, and Smith has surpassed that total in three games. His 322 passing yards per game is 10th in the nation.

Swamp things

Kentucky has played 20 freshmen this season and possibly will play more. Coach Joker Phillips said he was glad they got some experience heading into Saturday's game at Florida, one of the Southeastern Conference's most hostile environments.

UK has been caught subbing in wide-eyed youngsters too many times at SEC venues, Phillips said.

"Those guys have gotten some reps," he said of his youngest Cats. "Again, it will still be different for them. But at least they have a little comfort with being in games."

Having game experience also has sharpened their focus during practice.

"Guys practice a little bit different when you've gotten some reps in games," Phillips said. "It definitely helps to get a taste of it."

The Swamp is unlike any other stadium, wide receivers coach Pat Washington said.

"Man, they're going to trip out when they go out there in The Swamp," he said of his freshman wide receivers. "But it's going to be so much fun for them. They don't realize how much fun it is to go in a place like Florida or Alabama or wherever you go, those different venues. It's lasting memories. Particularly the first time you do it."

Phillips, who is 0-22 against the Gators as a coach, assistant coach and player at UK, still recalled his first trip to The Swamp as a wide receiver.

"My memory is kind of jarred because I was called to run a crack-back on Wilber Marshall three times in a row," Phillips said with a laugh. "First one successful, last two, well, that's the reason why I'm 5-foot-9."

Getting young runners involved?

After being touted all pre-season as a strong running back capable of moving the pile, freshman DyShawn Mobley hasn't played as much as some expected. That includes his head coach, who admitted UK missed opportunities to get him in the game against Western Kentucky.

"I'm kicking myself in the rear end," Phillips said. "That was an opportunity we missed to get him in the game and get him some much needed reps he's going to need before the season's over."

So far, the 5-11, 223-pound freshman from Powell, Tenn., has six carries for 19 yards. He's also caught one pass for a yard.

Running backs coach Steve Pardue said Mobley and fellow freshman running back Justin Taylor are getting better every day.

"(Mobley) does a million good things, but he's got some things he doesn't do well," Pardue said. "He's right on pace where he ought to be, Justin Taylor, too. I like them both; I'd recruit them both again. The other guys are playing well right now."

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