STARKVILLE, Miss. — It wasn't the way he wanted to get in a game, with his team trailing by double digits and little chance of coming back, but backup quarterback Drew Barker was pleased to get the opportunity nonetheless.
"I'm just really happy," said the redshirt freshman from Conner. "It was a great time. It's something you always envision as a little kid, playing in a college football game, so I was just really happy to be out there."
Barker entered the game against Mississippi State with the Cats trailing 42-16 with less than eight minutes to play.
He tried to take in the moment.
"It was awesome," he said. "First college snaps. It was a great experience. Just everything to learn off of it and I was just happy to be back playing football again in a live situation."
On his first snap, Barker scrambled for 10 yards. He followed it with an incompletion before connecting with Charles Walker on an 8-yard pass.
Then he was intercepted at midfield, but even that felt like a good moment for Barker. A learning moment in a season where he's been trying to learn from other people's mistakes instead of his own.
"I threw a pick on a screen, which isn't very good, but I was just happy to be out there," Barker said. "I really don't know. I'm still in a daze that I got in the game."
It doesn't appear that there will be a quarterback quandary for Cats coaches anytime soon, but Coach Mark Stoops has said numerous times that he wanted to get the backup "some reps and get him some action."
Barker got that on Saturday, completing seven of nine passes for 42 yards with that interception. He also ran three times for 20 yards in the loss.
"Like we talked about, when is the right time?" Stoops said. "When is the right time? I'd like to be up by three or four scores one game and put him in or whatever, let him get his feet wet. That never happened all year.
"This was the first time where I just felt like I wanted to get him in the game. Patrick did some good things. He struggled a bit like all of us."
It's been a bit of a hurry up and wait season for Barker, whom Stoops said UK planned to play against Eastern Kentucky, a few weeks ago. But the Colonels had other plans and took the Cats to the wire, not leaving much room for backups to get in the game.
Barker said he's just tried to be a good teammate and wait his turn.
"I do whatever the coaches ask me, and they ask me to be ready every week, so I just watch film and do everything they tell me to do and support all the players and everything," he said. "I haven't been frustrated at all."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson saw plenty of positives from the Cats' backup in the loss at Davis Wade Stadium.
"He went in there and did some good things, no doubt," Dawson said. "It was good to see him in there. He looked pretty poised to me, you know?"
As Kentucky begins its preparation for Tennessee this week, Barker is happy he'll have some of his own video to dissect. It was a learning experience all around.
"Definitely something to learn from, correct the mistakes and move on to Tennessee," he said. "That's a big game, SEC East opponent. Halloween night game; it's going to be a rowdy crowd. We've just got to build off this game and carryover and get a win against Tennessee."
The backup quarterback wasn't the only youngster that got meaningful snaps on Saturday.
Kentucky's secondary had several freshmen see significant action against the Bulldogs, at one point using two true freshmen at the cornerback spots. Freshman Chris Westry, a regular starter, had three tackles, an interception and a pass breakup.
He was joined by fellow true freshman Derrick Baity, as well as two redshirt freshmen safeties in Darius West and Mike Edwards.
It was part of UK's plan all along to get those guys in the game, coaches said.
"We've been wanting to play them for quite a while now," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "We just wanted to make sure that they were ready for everything that you're going to see in the SEC."
The coaches see something in that group beyond talent: Size.
"They're big guys, as you can see," Stoops said. "That's what we're trying to get to. Some of our freshmen corners, I wanted to get them some experience and really what I felt like they gave us the best opportunity."
Edwards was second on the team in tackles with seven, including six solo tackles. He also added a pass breakup. Baity added four tackles, including one for a loss. West also had four tackles.