UK Football

Mark Story: Three key questions about Kentucky's football game at Vanderbilt

Kentucky Wildcats defensive tackle Cory Johnson (67) pressured Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock (3) into a sack assisted by  Jabari Johnson (47) and  Farrington Huguenin (91)  as Kentucky played #25 Missouri on Saturday September 26, 2015 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats defensive tackle Cory Johnson (67) pressured Missouri Tigers quarterback Drew Lock (3) into a sack assisted by Jabari Johnson (47) and Farrington Huguenin (91) as Kentucky played #25 Missouri on Saturday September 26, 2015 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Three key questions, game details and the mood of the fans as Kentucky visits Vanderbilt.

1. Who will win the quarterback battle?

Patrick Towles has completed only 49 percent of his passes (47-of-96) with five interceptions and one touchdown in UK's blowout losses to Mississippi State, Tennessee and Georgia. So Mark Stoops announced this week that the Kentucky starting QB position was open to competition between Towles and redshirt freshman Drew Barker. Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt depth chart lists redshirt sophomore Johnny McCrary OR true freshman Kyle Schurmur as the starter. Which team will have a QB step up? That could determine the outcome.

2. Do the Cats have any fight left?

In unusually blunt commentary, Mark Stoops said Monday at his weekly news conference that he did not believe UK went to Georgia with the belief it could win. Will the Cats find motivation in Stoops' straight talk? Maybe. But once a team "lets go of the rope," it can be difficult to re-engage in a season.

3. Can UK force Vanderbilt turnovers?

Vanderbilt's record is bad in spite of having a stout defense because the Commodores' offense has been fast and loose with the football. The Commodores turned it over five times in a loss at South Carolina, four times while falling at Houston and three times each in defeats to Western Kentucky and Georgia. Not shockingly, Vandy is last in the SEC in turnover margin at minus-7. Conversely, the Kentucky defense has forced only 12 turnovers (six interceptions, six recovered fumbles) all season. To win in Music City, the Cats need to force an error-prone Vanderbilt offense into miscues.

THE MOOD

Is gnarly. With UK in the grips of a four-game losing skid — the last three of which have not been competitive — there is more fan discord than at any point in Mark Stoops' three seasons as Kentucky head man. As bad as UK has looked in being outscored 111-40 the past three games, a positive narrative to the Wildcats season and bowl eligibility are still available to be claimed. But to do so, UK must find some competitive spark.

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