UK Football

UK football notebook: QB Towles might have to be more than a 'game manager' at LSU

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns in UK's 48-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. "We've always got to answer the bell when it calls," Towles said.
Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns in UK's 48-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. "We've always got to answer the bell when it calls," Towles said. Herald-Leader

Sometimes, Kentucky's Patrick Towles watches the action from afar as a wide receiver in the Wildcat formation.

Sometimes, the quarterback stands in a collapsing pocket in his own end zone and throws for a first down to keep a drive alive like he had to do at Florida.

Towles has had to wear many different helmets this season depending on the game.

Sometimes he manages the game and sometimes he takes it over.

"There's going to be some times that we need him to play at a really high level to win and there's going to be some times where he just needs to get the ball where it's supposed to be," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.

Sometimes, players around him make the plays, like Jojo Kemp in the Wildcat formation two weeks ago.

Does the "game manager" label bother Towles?

Head coach Mark Stoops isn't going to ask his quarterback. He has a game at Louisiana State (5-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) to worry about.

"I know he's going to have to throw the ball well for us to win some games," Stoops said. "And this week it's not going to be easy, and he has to be more than a manager in this game.

"His talent has to show and he's gotta play confident and he's gotta throw the ball and he's gotta play aggressive."

Towles is happy to make a big throw or watch others take over as long as Kentucky (5-1, 2-1) keeps winning games.

"I don't mind it, especially if Jojo keeps running it like he is," Towles said after the South Carolina win. "I mean, it was awesome. When we can get in there and really just run at will, it's going to help us beat a lot of people this year."

The quarterback is just as happy to do his part.

"I'm just there just to make plays whenever I can and whenever I have to," Towles said. "We've got a lot of athletes. We've got a lot of players."

There's a balanced running game that features four different backs rushing for anywhere between 172 and 297 yards with multiple touchdowns apiece.

And there's Towles, who has completed 62.5 percent of his throws this season and has hit five different receivers for double-digit completions. Four different wide outs have two TD catches this season.

He's happy to watch other people do work.

"I mean, they take a lot of pressure off you and they make a lot of plays for you," Towles said. "Sometimes when it gets down to it, I'm sure on Saturday I'm going to have to make some plays on third down and stuff like that. I'll be ready for that when that time comes."

Towles has proved capable of making big plays in big games, winning three state championships in as many seasons as the starter at Highlands High School.

On the road against the Gators a few weeks ago, Towles had to do more than his share.

"We've always got to answer the bell when it calls," he said. "The Florida game it called. Whenever it does, you've got to answer."

Stoops wary of big-play Tigers

LSU knows what it does well and it keeps doing it over and over again. The Tigers will run it three, five, seven times in a row.

It's a big game of cat and mouse.

"You think you're hanging in there and battling and the next thing you know, they get a big play over the top," Stoops said of the Tigers' big-play ability.

LSU is 12th in the country in plays of 20-plus yards with 40 of them and in the top 30 nationally in plays of more than 30 and 40 yards.

Part of that is a hallmark of a Cam Cameron offense, Stoops said of the Tigers' offensive coordinator.

"Anybody with that pro experience does a nice job of setting things up with their run game and their play-actions," Stoops said. "They're balanced in their run game. They know if you're cheating too far one way, they'll go another."

Kentucky mostly has been effective at not giving up big plays this season, allowing just 22 plays of 20 or more yards (31st in the country).

And rarely do opponents get much farther than that, with UK tied for fifth in the nation in allowing plays for 30 or more yards (six) and tied for third in plays of 40 yards or more (two).

Wildcat trickery?

Shortly after Jojo Kemp lofted his only pass out of the Wildcat formation this season right into the hands of the opposing defense, the UK running back apologized to his head coach.

"I said, 'For what? You're not perfect. You're going to make mistakes,'" Stoops said after the Cats' win over Louisiana-Monroe despite Kemp's errant throw.

A few days later, UK's offensive coordinator was apologizing for his own part in a little white (and blue) lie.

"I fibbed to y'all last week," Neal Brown said of his claims that Kemp could throw it. "He doesn't throw it great. Y'all saw that. But he shouldn't have thrown it. But it wasn't that big a deal to me. I tried to make light of it."

But Kemp's throw did its part, keeping defenses on their toes the rest of the season knowing there are more wrinkles to the package than the Cats showed against Vanderbilt and South Carolina, when Kemp ran mostly out of the Wildcat for 131 yards and three touchdowns.

Even LSU's Les Miles noted that Kentucky had a Wildcat player who could "throw it some."

So something good came from Kemp's misfire.

"We needed to get it on film," Brown said. "And we've got a couple other trick plays we can do out of it also."

So does Brown perhaps have a running back with a better arm?

"I don't know,' he smiled. "We need to do tryouts. We need to do tryouts. They'll all say they are."

'Too much juice'

As games get bigger and more is on the line this season, Stoops admitted that emotions will run high on the football field, even his own, probably.

"We want to be intense, and you know, play with great emotion and great passion, but we have to keep that in control," Stoops said. "You know, I'm certainly not perfect in that area."

When Stoops got a little imperfect with officials during the South Carolina game, junior offensive lineman Jordan Swindle corrected him.

"He said, "Coach, you got too much juice,' which means calm down," Stoops laughed. "So we always tease each other about having good energy and having good juice in practice. He told me, smiled at me during the game and said, "Coach, too much juice."

Stoops has someone on staff who is in charge of pulling the head coach back when the juice gets flowing, but he wouldn't say who.

Back in his days as defensive coordinator at Arizona, his get-back coach was UK's current strength and conditioning coach, Corey Edmond.

It apparently wasn't an assignment Edmond wanted to sign up for again at Kentucky.

"He will not do that here," Stoops laughed. "He's done with that. So we got some other guys."