A frustrated Joker Phillips took to the podium on Saturday to answer questions about Kentucky's 38-0 loss to the Florida Gators.
Below are highlights from the press conference and post-game interviews (full videos of which can be found at the Lexington Herald-Leader). My analysis (which I should warn you, will be a bit venomous) is in italics. Bold emphasis is my own, as well.
Head coach Joker Phillips
- Praised the play of the defense and the offensive line (both in the rushing game and pass blocking). Said that the main issues were that they just couldn't throw and catch.
- On Maxwell Smith's injury, said that he seemed fine on Thursday (after having not thrown all week), but after being told by a trainer that an injury during the game could knock him out for a few weeks, decided to pull him.
- Said that Smith wanted to play, but he treats Max "like he's my kid." Did not want to risk an injury to him like that. So instead, you put an unprepared Morgan Newton, a kid who already has taken a lot of heat during his time at UK, under center in the Swamp and allowed him to keep failing to greater and greater degrees? Your kid...gotcha.
- Claimed that Morgan Newton and Jalen Whitlow rotated snaps during practice this past week, but still planned as if Maxwell Smith would play. I'm not in Lexington, so I don't know how many snaps Newton took in practice. But either it was not enough, or the coaching staff did a horrible job of getting him prepared. Newton is not a good quarterback, but he's nowhere near as bad as his performance on Saturday made him look.
- When asked why he waited so long to replace Newton with Whitlow, said he felt it was too difficult a situation for a true freshman. Except that you put Max Smith in as true freshman last year against Florida and on the road against LSU and against South Carolina. Also, when Whitlow did finally check in, he looked a heck of a lot more comfortable than Newton ever did.
- Said they kept deciding to give Newton one more series. Said the intention, however, has been to have Whitlow be the No. 2 quarterback. Which is probably why Morgan Newton told John Clay of the Lexington-Herald Leader that he had taken very few snaps at quarterback since fall camp.
- Said that Maxwell Smith will definitely be ready to go next week against South Carolina. You'll have to forgive me, coach Phillips, if I remain skeptical about that since you said the same thing last week.
Offensive Coordinator Randy Sanders
- Expressed that he was confident Maxwell Smith will play next week. Once again, I remain skeptical.
- Said that Newton was kept in the game to start the second half because he "allowed them to run a lot more of their offense" than Whitlow did. I'm not even sure how to respond to that. I get what Sanders is saying (Newton knew the plays and calls better than Whitlow), but he absolutely could not execute them. That doesn't give you any opportunities at all.
- Claimed that Newton got half the first-team reps on Tuesday, but that the staff was still operating under the assumption that Smith would play.
- Said he knew there would be an issue with Smith playing against Florida when he saw him throw on Thursday.
Quarterback Morgan Newton
- Found out he was going to play during warmups before the game. But Sanders knew that there was probably going to be an issue on Thursday? Alright then...
- Stayed classy when asked if a lack of reps affected his play, simply responded with "reps are important."
- Frustrated with his play, but said his job is to be as ready as possible. Not your fault, kid. The staff never should have put you in that situation.
- Felt that his career has been plagued by bad circumstances and bad timing. I feel terrible for Newton
There was no video/audio interview with Rick Minter, but it needs to be said that his defensive unit improved immensely since last week (especially considering all the shots I've been taking at him this season).
Before the game got out of hand and Newton began turning the ball over, the Wildcats were holding Florida and making stops in a way that we haven't seen all season.
I have no idea what happened at practice to make them suddenly fill gaps, make tackles and cover receivers, but let's hope it continues next week.
Kentucky's next opponent will be the University of South Carolina Gamecocks at 7 p.m. EST Saturday, September 29, in Lexington.
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