LEXINGTON — For all those University of Kentucky football fans increasingly frustrated by the Wildcats’ version of the figurative soap opera, “As The Quarterbacks Turn,” coach Mark Stoops feels your pain.
Stoops was asked about the Jalen Whitlow/Maxwell Smith revolving door repeatedly Monday after Kentucky’s 24-7 loss to Florida two days earlier.
Next up for the Wildcats (1-3 overall, 0-1 in the SEC) are the 13th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1) Saturday night in Columbia, S.C. Kickoff is at 7:30 on Fox South.
Unless Whitlow or Smith rise up in practice, we may see them in and out, in and out, again this week.
“We would like to get (settle on) one, we really would,” Stoops said. “I think we’re going to try to give it to one person, give him the reps and see what he can do. I think we need to do that.
“But it has not been clear cut to this point. It would be reckless for us to name one guy at this point because nobody has taken the job. We’ll evaluate it this week and see where we’re at.”
This past week, including practice and the Florida game, was a poster child of how frustrating the process can be.
Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown said late last week that Smith had been nearly flawless throwing the ball in practice, even coming off an aggravated shoulder injury suffered late in the Louisville game Sept. 14.
But in the Florida game, Smith was, at best, pedestrian, at 12 of 20 passing for just 90 yards and one interception.
Whitlow was five of six passing, though for just 36 yards.
“It is hard,” Stoops said of the QB predicament. “We practice and practice every day and play our games and hope one guy takes charge. I think, like most people, we feel the same frustration at times.
“Again, we look at Max ... we were going with Max (after the opener with Western Kentucky) , and he was doing pretty good in practice and then got hurt. He still had good practices last week and then goes out in the game and doesn’t play like he was practicing.”
Stoops made a very good point Monday when asked about the calls from the outside for more carries for freshman running back Jojo Kemp.
Stoops said the Kentucky offense had only seven possessions against Florida, for a total of 47 snaps, and only 10 of those were from the running back position.
Raymond Sanders ran the ball five times; Kemp three times, and Dyshawn Mobley twice.
“Both guys need to play,” Stoops said of Sanders and Kemp. “Again, in a perfect world we have more snaps and give Jojo the ball more and run it more successfully. That’s pretty easy to say.”
Stoops was asked Monday if he’s concerned about his young players getting mentally beaten down in this stretch of four games against top-10 caliber teams.
The Wildcats are coming off competitive home losses to No. 7-rated Louisville and No. 19-rated Florida, with South Carolina and then No. 1 Alabama coming up the next two weeks.
UK announced Monday, by the way, that the Wildcats’ game with Alabama will be on ESPN2, with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Commonwealth Stadium.
“Yes, I would be concerned about that,” Stoops said of the possible emotional perils of this rough stretch for his players. “(But) When I went back and put on the film Sunday, I was pleased with the effort on offense, defense and special teams. That’s a big part of it. You have to give everything you have or you have no chance.
“Nobody likes to lose and go through tough stretches, and y’all have been sitting here interviewing people for a long time, and you probably heard all the same answers and all that. And it’s not fun for anybody involved, but for us, it’s back to work.That’s what I told them after the game — I was looking forward to Monday. Let’s get back to work and get better.”
The Associated Press top 10 in college football is as follows: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Clemson, 4. Ohio State, 5. Stanford, 6. Georgia, 7. Louisville, 8. Florida State, 9. Texas A&M, 10. LSU.
I don’t have any major qualms with that list, though in my eyeball test, I believe that Alabama, Oregon and Stanford have separated themselves from the others.
Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and maybe Baylor are next in my book, with Louisville, Florida State and maybe Oklahoma behind them.
Those first nine are the only teams with much of a shot at the national title. Louisville, FSU and Oklahoma will need a lot of help, and it’s hard to see that many dominos falling.
Two games I especially have my eye on are both Nov. 7: Stanford-Oregon and Baylor-Oklahoma.
The USC job
I watched most of the USC-Arizona State game Saturday night. USC made Arizona State look like Oregon, which is why coach Lane Kiffin was fired by USC athletics director Pat Haden Sunday morning.
I loved a line from ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd Monday. Referring to those who question whether Coach Kevin Sumlin would leave Texas A&M for the USC job, an incredulous Cowherd said: “Oh please, College Station is Lubbock with a Panera Bread.”
Just ask Johnny Manziel ...