The Kentucky offensive line took its share of hits on the field a week ago — and plenty more off the field — in the days following a loss to Florida.
The group took its share of injury hits, too, with several starters sidelined. For nearly all of the 21-13 victory over Missouri on Saturday, the Cats' offensive line was made up mostly of sophomores and backups.
"We had four redshirt sophomores out there — that first class that we signed, we redshirted all of them — and tonight is a product of all that," offensive line coach John Schlarman said.
Kentucky was playing without starting left tackle Jordan Swindle, who strained his groin and had to be replaced early in the game by Cole Mosier, who is listed on the UK depth chart as the backup right guard and right tackle.
"He is steady as they come. He is," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said of Mosier, a former walk-on, who earned a scholarship at the start of this season. "Cold-blooded. I trust that kid with everything."
Mosier, a former standout at Walton-Verona High School, was steady all night against Charles Harris, Missouri's top pass rusher.
"I don't know what his pulse is, but it can't get much above 50," Schlarman joked of the 6-foot-6, 335-pound Mosier. "You can't rattle that guy. If you ask him to do whatever, he'll do it. That's the type of player you like. He never complains."
And there was Nick Haynes making his second start of the season at left guard, and Kyle Meadows making his first career start at right tackle.
"Played every snap," Schlarman said. "I thought he did some great things on the right side."
The only full-time offensive line regulars in the game the entire way were center Jon Toth and sophomore right guard Ramsey Meyers.
How well did that piecemeal group play overall? So well that Dawson said he didn't even notice personnel issues enough to change the way he called plays versus the Tigers.
UK was without Swindle, left guard Zach West and right tackle George Asafo-Adjei for most of the game. There were no post-game updates on their injuries.
"We played with the guys who were healthy and we challenged them and they did a great job," Dawson said. "We gave up a few here and there, but I think in football today, you're probably going to give up a pass rush every now and again ... ."
It helped that group that Patrick Towles was getting the ball out quicker.
"They go hand and hand," Dawson continued. "Protection and that go hand-in-hand, so you can't protect all day. That's just the way it is. The more comfort level he has going through his progressions and getting the ball out, the better we're going to be."
Schlarman said he couldn't be more pleased that the offensive line held up so well under pressure, allowing just two sacks.
"They got out there and executed much better, obviously, than we did in prior weeks," Schlarman said. "I was proud of them."
There was a lot to be learned from that loss to Florida the week before, freshman tight end C.J. Conrad said.
"Florida did a lot of things that were challenging," Conrad said. "They twisted; they were really quick up front. I think that was good for us a little bit that we got that (loss). We understood where we messed up and I think that really helped out tonight."
Behind that pieced-together line, UK was not only able to rush for 120 yards, but also pick up some difficult yards at the end of the game when the Cats needed to eat up some clock to hold off Missouri.
"Our guys have shown that in those situations, we can grind out some first downs," Dawson said.
The Cats being able to close out their three victories with hard running yards has been "critical, critical, absolutely critical," Coach Mark Stoops said.
"There were some tough runs in there," he said. "We were grinding it out, not getting some, but at the end of every victory we got some critical runs. That's a big part of — that's how you win close games. If you're not able to do that, you would lose more than half of them. And that's where we're getting better."