Coaches harped on Patrick Towles' consistency (or lack thereof) late last season when his completion percentages were at their lowest.
In terms of accuracy, the season-ending loss at Louisville was his career worst at 48.3 percent. Still, he was lower in Saturday's season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, connecting on just 47.1 percent of his throws.
Towles started the game on a mission, completing 62.5 percent of his passes in the first quarter; then he hit 50 percent in the second quarter. By the final one on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium, Towles completed only two of his final six throws (33 percent).
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"Me, I think," he said. "I just have to make better throws and be more consistent. We hit some early, we hit a couple late, but not as much as we wanted to."
A win was still a win, no matter how ugly it got in the second half, though. And after not eclipsing 200 yards passing in his final four games last season, Towles did throw for 257 yards (second most in the Southeastern Conference) and three touchdowns.
At his Monday news conference to preview the South Carolina game, Coach Mark Stoops called his quarterback's performance "a little bit inconsistent. (He) had some great throws, explosive plays and then missed some opportunities."
The quarterback might have been his own worst enemy as the game went on, overthrowing on one pass and then appearing to overcompensate by badly under throwing on another one.
"He put a lot of pressure on himself," Stoops said. "I think he cares a great deal and wanted to play very well and put a lot of pressure on himself."
So Stoops said his main talking points with the junior this week will be to "just settle in and just be who he is" on the road against the Gamecocks this weekend.
In the upset victory over South Carolina last season, Towles managed the game well, completing 69 percent of his passes for 208 yards and one touchdown.
"I don't want to get too much in his head and overcoach that," Stoops said. "I'm very confident in him, and he'll make the throws. But, just like everybody else on our team he'll be held accountable. At some point you've got to go, you've got to make those plays."
After the win on Saturday, new offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said not to overanalyze every pass.
"One big positive is when we needed to make a play at the end, he made a great throw, you know?" Dawson said. "You're not going to make a great throw every time."
After Saturday's game, Towles sounded ready to take the advice not to overanalyze.
"If I'm consistent tonight, we win that game by a lot more than we did," he said. "But, at the end of the day, we won the football game."
Breaking down freshmen
Four freshmen started and 14 played in the season opener, some like C.J. Conrad to high praise and others (mostly not named) who made their share of freshmen mistakes.
Of Conrad, Stoops said stats don't tell the story on the tight end, who was in on at least 80 percent of Kentucky's explosive runs on Saturday.
"I know people are wondering why he didn't catch a ball," Stoops said. "We didn't have a heck of a lot of completions, honestly."
True freshman offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei and cornerback Chris Westry both will continue to improve with repetitions and more live game situations.
Many of UK's run defense issues, allowing Louisiana-Lafayette to run for 247 yards, were when some of the Cats' young linebackers were in the game.
"It's very important for us to get settled in and to get things cleaned up," Stoops said. "You certainly can't give up big runs. I mean that's how they (South Carolina) won the game last week. They hit a big long run."
The Gamecocks had four different players run for 40 or more yards in the 17-13 win over North Carolina, contributing to USC's 254 yards on the ground.
Other news and notes
Starting weakside linebacker Ryan Flannigan is still listed as day-to-day as he comes back from a shoulder injury sustained in fall camp, Stoops said. Before the season opener, Stoops said Flannigan was "very close."
Linebacker Jordan Jones sprained his knee during the game and is also listed as day-to-day.
■ One of the true freshmen expected to play this season may still be headed for a redshirt, Stoops said of linebacker Eli Brown, who did not see action in the opener. "We'll prepare him to play if we need to," Stoops said of the freshman from Bowling Green. "We felt like Jordan (Jones) was the best answer at that point in time last week."
■ There were only a couple of depth chart changes for the Cats' road game to Columbia, with previously suspended players Kyle Meadows and C.J. Johnson each going back to his spot. Meadows is now the No. 2 left tackle behind Jordan Swindle. Johnson is the No. 2 defensive tackle behind Regie Meant.