It had been almost three years since Patrick Towles went to bed the night before a football game knowing he would wake up the next morning as his team's starting quarterback.
So Friday night, with Towles on the eve of his first college start in Kentucky's 2014 season opener against Tennessee-Martin, the minutes seemed to crawl by and he could not fall asleep.
"Well, I slept a little bit," the redshirt sophomore said. "But not as much as I would like. It had been three years since I started a game. I just wanted to get out there and start playing."
For Towles, what was three years in the making turned out to be well worth the wait.
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Making full use of Kentucky's impressive collection of young playmakers, a polished Towles led Kentucky to a 59-14 pasting of the outmanned visitors from the Ohio Valley Conference before an announced Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 50,398.
The former Fort Thomas Highlands star completed 20 of 29 passes for 377 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. The 6-foot-5, 238-pounder also ran for 30 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown on a scramble around left end. Towles finished with 407 yards of total offense, the most for a Kentucky quarterback in his first game as a starter since Dusty Bonner had 409 in a 1999 loss to Louisville.
"I was very pleased with Patrick's play," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said afterward. "He made a couple of bad decisions, but what I thought was nice was he bounced right back and made good decisions. He was very poised."
Towles had not started a football game since leading Highlands to a third straight high school state championship in 2011. He had not appeared in a contest since Kentucky's 2012 season finale at Tennessee.
Yet, sleepless night and all, he came out rapier sharp.
He completed his first four passes, missed two, then went 11-for-16 over the rest of the first half. By halftime, Towles had 263 passing yards and Kentucky had a 35-0 lead.
There's never been a question about Towles' arm strength. Yet one of the issues that had prevented him from winning the UK starting QB job in the past was inaccuracy on short and intermediate routes. Fixing that is part of the reason Towles hired a private quarterback coach to work with him in the offseason.
At least for one Saturday — against a defense about three time zones removed from what Kentucky will face in the SEC — Towles appeared to have made substantial strides in locating his shorter passes.
"We know he has the talent to get the ball down the field," Stoops said. "I think it was important for him to be efficient in the intermediate area — and I thought he did that."
Towles said he was playing with extra motivation Saturday. Growing up in Fort Thomas, the quarterback said he used to serve as a math tutor for a younger student, Brady Walz.
Last March, Towles said he got a phone call that Walz, a freshman in high school and the nephew of University of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, had been diagnosed with leukemia.
"Half of my heart is there in Northern Kentucky," Towles said. "It's not good, but Brady is fighting hard. I'm praying everyday for him, and I hope everybody else will (pray), too."
In a savvy bit of "roommate assigning" by the UK brain trust, Towles spent what turned out to be the sleep-deprived Friday night before his first career start with fellow QB Maxwell Smith as his roomie.
That's the same Smith who made 11 career starts at Kentucky before his career was sabotaged by chronic injuries. The same Smith who aspires to be an SEC coach someday.
"Max was great. We talked about the game and the whole operation," Towles said. "How to handle things. How to be out there and what to look for. Max just kept saying 'trust what they give you.'"
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said what pleased him most about Towles' effort was what the QB did after making what Brown termed "two poor decisions" on UK's first drive of the second half.
"He came back the very next series and made two big plays," Brown said. "That's the thing, bounce back. He (followed the mistakes) with a nice series and ran for a TD."
After the victory was in the books, Towles was getting reacquainted with the feeling of being a winning, starting quarterback. "It feels awesome," he said, smiling.
If it means Towles will play against Ohio next week like he did Saturday, UK might want to keep him awake next Friday night, too.