John Clay: Patrick Towles standing tall for UK in more ways than one

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 31, 2014 

  • Ohio at Kentucky

    When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday


If we could bottle Saturday we certainly would. We would happily hit the copy and paste buttons on Kentucky's 59-14 smashing of UT-Martin so that grid excellence would be an expected weekly guest and we'd all be pricing flights for our bowl game reservations.

Saturday represented one game, the first game, but it was an impressive game nonetheless. Nothing exists in a vacuum, certainly not college football, the sport Kentucky has traditionally found hardest to master.

So after successive two-win seasons, achieving a victory on your first attempt at a victory and achieving it with such ease is sure to be of scrapbook quality.

The calendar says we must move on, however, so we bring you five quick thoughts — mixing past with future — as Kentucky football carries its smiles into the season's second week.

1. Patrick Towles, the redshirt quarterback, stands tall, and we're not just saying that because he is 6-foot-5 in the press guide. So many college quarterbacks are wiry guys with quick feet, which is great — but if you're Kentucky, maybe you need someone big enough to stand and deliver.

Better still, Towles seems blessed with a stubborn streak that is advantageous to the job at hand. Saturday, he held fast when presented with a pass rush — and there will be those — and provided authority on his throws. He doesn't seem one to back down easily.

"Patrick has never lacked confidence," said offensive coordinator Neal Brown, "and that's good."

Think Bill Ransdell, the former UK quarterback (1983-86), a Kentucky kid (Elizabethtown) like Towles (Fort Thomas), who was tough, self-assured and at his peak left no doubts about his leadership. Towles isn't even nearly there yet, but you can see possibilities.

2. Yes, one player can make a difference at a position, or shows the potential to make a difference. A.J. Stamps, the junior safety, was Saturday's example and not just because Stamps intercepted a pass and made open-field tackles, but because of the way head coach Mark Stoops had bragged on Stamps as a difference-maker.

Coaches usually praise players for one or two reasons. The praise can be intended to boost a player's confidence so the player might reach his or her potential, or even exceed. Or the praise is a simple statement of fact.

Stoops has been around talent since he was knee high to a kicking tee. He saw it up close and brilliant for three years at Florida State. He helped recruit it, develop it, coach it, polish it.

If we know anything about UK's head football coach by now, he doesn't blow smoke and he wasn't with Stamps.

3. The people I felt sorry for on Saturday were the local weekend television sports anchors who had to find a way to cram a treasure's chest of big-play highlights into a small broadcast window. Surely, something got left out. Something you probably wanted to see again.

4. Teaching points. Stat you may have missed in Saturday's bliss: UT-Martin's 81 offensive snaps. That's a lot of offensive snaps, just one short of the number of times Georgia hiked the ball on its merry way to slapping 59 points on Kentucky a year ago.

UT-Martin ran the football with "aggravating" (Stoops' term) success. Some of that was on second-team Cats, but enough rushing yardage was churned up against the first team to give you every reason to believe the film session in the defensive meeting room won't be all popcorn and praise.

5. The road ahead. Ohio will carry a 1-0 record into Saturday's Commonwealth Stadium visit thanks to a 17-14 win at Kent State.

The Bobcats broke in a new quarterback, Derrius Vick, who merely completed 18 of 24 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Vick is from Lincoln, Neb. Ohio's coach, Frank Solich, used to coach in Lincoln.

The Huskers won 75.3 percent of their games when Solich was the head coach from 1998-2003. Since Solich was shown the door, Nebraska has won 64.6 percent of its games.

Meanwhile, Ohio has been to five straight bowl games.

John Clay: 859-231-3226.E-mail: @johnclayiv.

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