One Kentucky coach called changing quarterbacks when things are going well "a roll of the dice."
On Saturday against Missouri, UK did just that when it replaced starter Jalen Whitlow with fellow freshman Patrick Towles on the third series.
The gamble did not pay off.
On UK's first two drives, the offense moved the ball effectively under Whitlow, gaining 120 yards with a touchdown.
The rest of the game — even after Whitlow returned — the Cats seemed out of sorts and out of sync, managing just 59 yards of total offense.
But the Cats coaches aren't convinced the signal-caller swap caused the offense to stall.
"I don't think what Patrick did killed our momentum," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said as Kentucky prepares for Vanderbilt on Saturday. "It was what everyone, all 11 guys out there, did that killed the momentum."
Inserting Towles, who discarded his chance for a redshirt in early October when former starter Maxwell Smith went down with an ankle injury, was part of the game plan, and UK didn't want to deviate.
"The only way you can make sure you get the other kid (Towles) in is have a plan before the game," Coach Joker Phillips said Monday. "We had a plan. We put him in on the third series. It would be crazy for us not to play him.
"You can get into a game where, if you don't have a plan to play him, you can get into a game where it just doesn't come up."
Phillips seemed to indicate Monday that Towles will play the third series again this week, regardless of how the offense is moving against the Commodores (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference).
Phillips didn't think it was one quarterback or another that moved the ball. He argued it was the Cats' ground attack.
"We had moved the ball, but how had we moved the ball? Run game," Phillips said. "That's what we thought we'd continue to do. Jalen had thrown four passes. I think the length of them, the longest was 5 yards. So the way we were moving the football was through the run game."
That part is arguable.
On the first two drives, Whitlow completed four passes for 67 yards, the longest a 30-yard screen to Demarco Robinson to open the second drive.
While UK often refers to those short passes and screen passes as part of its run game, they still helped move the ball, boosted in part by the threat Whitlow creates as a runner.
The rest of the game, Kentucky completed just six passes, including one by Towles.
"It's always a hard thing," Sanders said of juggling quarterbacks. "You have a plan to put a guy in. Last week we moved the ball pretty well the first two series, we put Patrick in and we never were really able to get it going again. But at the same time, it's almost unfair to put a (young) guy in if things aren't going well. ...
"We thought maybe the success the other 10 guys were having could help carry Patrick along."
After the game, Whitlow reluctantly admitted that the back-and-forth complicated things.
"I wouldn't say it broke my rhythm, but it does kind of slow you down," he said. "That's any time you go to the sideline. You've just gotta get back out there, get warm, just get back in the swing of things."
Coaches want to see Towles, who had been on the scout team and practiced only six times with the full offense before the Missouri loss, continue to improve so he can help move the offense.
On Saturday, he completed just one of his four pass attempts for 2 yards. The freshman also was sacked and fumbled.
"I hope he'll keep making progress where he can play more, because Jalen (Whitlow) is doing about as well as we can expect him to do," Sanders said. "We'd like him to do better, but, realistically, where you expect him to be, he's not that far off. He needs some help from someone, and if Patrick can come in and provide some help, then that's a bonus for him."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241Twitter: @jenheraldleaderBlog: ukfootball.bloginky.com