UK Football

Kentucky-Missouri notes: Towles unable to explain struggles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles (14) is topped on 4th-and-1 during the fourth quarter. The University of Missouri hosted the University of Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 01, 2014 at Faurot Field in Columbia. Photo by Derek Poore
Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles (14) is topped on 4th-and-1 during the fourth quarter. The University of Missouri hosted the University of Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 01, 2014 at Faurot Field in Columbia. Photo by Derek Poore Herald-Leader

COLUMBIA, Mo. — There was the Mississippi State Patrick Towles: A confident quarterback setting all kinds of personal bests.

A week ago against the top team in the nation, Towles seemed unstoppable, throwing for a career-best 390 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 76 yards and two more touchdowns.

Then there was the Patrick Towles that faced the twisting, stunting, hectic front at Missouri, and he struggled.

Towles overthrew wide receivers, seemed uncomfortable in the collapsing pocket, struggled to run and struggled to throw.

His 158 yards passing on Saturday in the 20-10 loss at Missouri were second-fewest of the season behind only Louisiana State when he had 146.

Nearly half of Towles' 158 passing yards came in the fourth quarter.

Was there something wrong with Towles physically?

"We discussed it on the sidelines and made sure he was all right," Coach Mark Stoops said of his quarterback. "We asked him and checked him and he seemed to be fine."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he wasn't aware of anything.

For his part, Towles said he "kind of struggled getting into a rhythm early. Like I said, with the six passes, it was hard to get there, but still no excuse. I have no excuse for the balls I missed. I've gotta hit 'em."

A lot of things went wrong for the offense, and leading rusher Mikel Horton said that's where the blame for Towles' struggles should be placed, on the offense, not on the quarterback.

"It was a team effort," the freshman said. "The blame is on the team, not a specific group. We don't blame a specific group, not the quarterback, nothing like that."

After watching Towles take apart Mississippi State's defense at times the week before, Missouri took it as a personal challenge to stop the Kentucky quarterback.

"We knew he wanted to run so our first thing was on passes, make sure we contain him and don't let him get outside of the pocket," linebacker Kentrell Brother said.

Six wins? 'It's up to us'

Kentucky talks about taking it one game at a time, but it's still hard not to look at the calendar and see the limited number of games left to get to win number six for bowl eligibility.

Players and coaches had different feels for whether or not the desire to get that sixth win was weighing heavy on UK with games against Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville remaining on the schedule.

"Maybe we need to put more pressure on ourselves," Stoops said. "You're not gonna go on the road and win a game if you don't give it the best you can. That's why I'm very frustrated and very disappointed. I have to find a way to get more out of them and just give a better effort than that."

The pressure of getting that bowl-eligibility win clearly was different for Alvin "Bud" Dupree, whose career could end at Louisville if the Cats don't make a bowl game, and for freshman running back Mikel Horton, who said the Cats "really don't think about it.

"It's great to have six wins, we're just focusing on being consistent as a team," Horton said. "We really could care less about a bowl game now or whatever comes with them. It's a great thing; it's a bonus, but playing with my brothers is the thing I'm happy about."

Naturally, Dupree, who finished with a career-high 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, saw the weight of getting the sixth win as much, much heavier.

"Now it's going to weigh on us a lot," he said. "Now just because we've got three games left and all three of them are tough games. All the teams we will face will be great teams. It's up to us."

Boom returns

After suffering a scary head injury in the Cats' last road game at Louisiana State, Stanley "Boom" Williams missed the last game, but returned to the field on Saturday at Missouri.

The Cats' second-leading all-purpose player finished with 12 carries for 46 yards and caught five passes for 58 yards.

Williams said he didn't think about the previous injury.

"Once the trainers gave me the full go, I wasn't worried about anything," the true freshman said. "I just wanted to get back out there and start playing football with the team again."

Williams didn't return to his kick returning role, though, which he said was the coaches' decision.

"They just wanted me for offense since I got the injury from kickoff return, so coaches' decision," he said. "We respected that, and we're just moving forward with it."

Tiller, McClain hurt

Kentucky's secondary lost two key players Saturday. Nickel back Blake McClain was injured early in the game defending a pass in the end zone. He injured his shoulder.

Later in the first half, Fred Tiller suffered an undisclosed injury while colliding with a Tigers player.

"They both couldn't return," Stoops said. "Fred's — I believe that the X-rays were negative for what they were checking with. But obviously if they can't get full strength they can't come back into the game."