NASHVILLE — Kentucky's quarterback plan was simple: Start with Patrick Towles and then sprinkle in some Drew Barker.
Then once the game gets going, stick with the guy who gave the Cats the best shot.
"We were just trying to flip them back and forth and go with the hot hand, really," offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson explained after the Cats' 21-17 loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
The problem with that plan is neither quarterback was able to get beyond lukewarm.
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"We (weren't) doing great passing the ball all night," Dawson said of UK, which completed 15 of its 34 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. "It was tough throwing."
After Towles guided UK on an empty drive that included four shots from the 1-yard line and then threw an interception on a short fade route in the end zone, coaches subbed in Barker.
"Coaches felt he'd give us a better shot, I made that mistake in the end zone, so it was his turn," said Towles, who was 10-for-26 for 67 yards and the pick. "I told him, 'If there's anything I can help you with, please tell me.' I want to see this football team win."
Barker came in and guided Kentucky on a five-play, 70-yard drive that ended in his first career touchdown pass, a 7-yarder to Ryan Timmons.
"It was definitely fun to get in there," said Barker, who connected on five of his eight attempts. "They made some plays for me. It was fun."
He gave those points back a few minutes later, though, by throwing a pass to Vanderbilt defender Oren Burks, who took it 30 yards for the score.
"I didn't see the guy drop," said Barker, who was 2-for-5 for 3 yards and the pick after that first drive. "That's on me, 100 percent. If that never happened we probably win the game. You can't really look back on things like that. It happened, it happened. I got over it quickly, but it was just a bad read."
Kentucky's coaches, who went back to Towles later in the third quarter, saw good and bad from both quarterbacks and gave no indication what direction they're headed in the future.
"I thought both of them did some decent things," Dawson said. "We just made some critical errors, really put the defense in a bad situation."
Stoops said he's going to look at film to decide if playing both quarterbacks "had an effect on the game or not.
"That was the first time we had done it like that in three years," he said of the dual quarterback option. "We'd prefer one quarterback to go out there and play real well."
Boom's big day
After missing last week with an elbow injury, UK's Boom Williams tried to make up for lost carries versus Vanderbilt on Saturday.
The sophomore, who had to wear a brace on his injured right elbow, led UK with 13 carries for 115 yards, but he did have one critical fumble that cost the Cats points early in the game.
The arm held up well, he said.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "Didn't have any problems. Felt good. It was fun being able to be out here with my team, going back to work with those guys."
Kentucky's coaches were happy to have him back, especially his big-play ability, which included a 66-yard run that set up UK's third-quarter touchdown.
"We were trying to feed him as much as we could and keep him fresh," Dawson said. "He hadn't played. So he's a guy who gets really tired really quick, you can tell on the runs. I thought when he was in there he played well. Happy to have him back."
Coming back from a high ankle sprain, junior linebacker Jason Hatcher made some big plays, getting a career-best eight tackles, including two for loss.
"I was glad to have him back," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "He had a lot of energy, played good in the run game, made some tackles in the backfield, so we definitely needed him."
■ Farrington Huguenin set a new career high for tackles with 10. ... Freshman safety Mike Edwards forced his first career fumble and had six tackles. ... Senior linebacker Khalid Henderson forced and recovered his first fumble of the season. Henderson has four fumbles recovered and four fumbles forced in his career.