Joker Phillips wasn't ready to throw in towel during loss at Arkansas

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 14, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips looks toward the field during the first half of a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., on Oct.. 13, 2012. Photo by Beth Hall

BETH HALL

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Coach Joker Phillips thought the unthinkable on Saturday night.

After the lightning show slowed outside Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium and the 49-7 whipping had been mercifully ended more than 20 minutes early for Kentucky, Phillips said he wanted the rout to continue.

"I was hoping we'd continue to play, because we've got a lot of young guys that are playing out there and it would've been good to let those guys continue to get snaps," Phillips said.

That's how young UK is and how much room for improvement there is for the Cats, who lost their fifth straight game and fell to 1-6 and overall a 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference.

During the whipping, which included Arkansas outgaining Kentucky 533-170, the Cats played 32 sophomores or younger on offense and defense. That's 32 of the 50 players who played.

It showed in nearly every statistical category. The Hogs had 24 first downs compared to six for UK. Arkansas had 372 passing yards compared to 104 for Kentucky, which got 61 of those yards on a touchdown pass in the waning minutes.

That pass, from true freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow to La'Rod King, was one of the two Whitlow completed for the game. At one point, Phillips said UK subbed out Whitlow for senior Morgan Newton so he might be able to get some perspective.

"Just wanted him to step away from it, because he's a young guy that needs the snaps," Phillips said. "And the more these guys get snaps, the better they'll be.

"We've definitely been affected by quarterbacks being in and out of the rotation, but we've got to find some way to be a little bit more consistent offensively. We'll have to regroup."

But part of the problem in regrouping is that UK is facing yet another highly rated team in No. 13 Georgia this weekend, and the Cats aren't guaranteed to get any of their more experienced players back from injury on either side of the ball.

"So we're going to march on and go forward, try to bury this one as quick as we can, try to learn from it, take some good out of it — what little there may be — and then move forward," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said.

Both of the Cats' coordinators talked about how difficult it is to make adjustments in game when the players are so young. For instance, the secondary had four true freshmen in after senior Cartier Rice exited with an injury.

"Every time you make a call you just kind of look at yourself and say, 'Do we know this one well at all? And if not, what can we do?'" Minter said. "So we've got a lot of work to do."

It's not as simple as just making changes, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said after the loss.

"One of the hard things about playing young people is it's hard to make adjustments," he said. "It's really hard to make adjustments. Sometimes you see things and you want to get to them as coaches, but if the guys can't execute them it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what we know or what we see, it's a matter of what they can do."

Sanders sees a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a long way off.

"The good thing is two or three years from now, we've got some guys that will be really good football players," he said. "They just need to see the looks, learn from the good experience, learn from the bad experiences. Unfortunately, tonight was an experience we hope we'll learn from but it wasn't the kind of experience that you want."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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