GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WDRB) – Morgan Newton's three interceptions and 48 passing yards did not lose the football game for Kentucky against Florida Saturday. Let me make that perfectly clear.
The Gators beat the Wildcats, 38-0. That's a 22-guy and coaching staff problem, not a quarterback problem. There are plenty of guys to credit for Kentucky's 1-3 start this season.
Florida rolled the Wildcats for the same reasons the Gators have now rolled in 26 straight against Kentucky. The talent gap between the programs stretches from here to The Everglades. Better UK quarterbacks than Newton have been throttled by Florida.
But this is what is troubling about the quarterback play Kentucky had Saturday: Asked to start in place of an injured Maxwell Smith, Newton didn't play better in the fourth game of his senior season than he did in the fourth game of his freshman season.
Bad reads. Bad throws. Bad decisions. Predictable results.
Isn't that the definition of coaching?
Maximizing strengths (encouraging Newton to run and throw short balls). Hiding weaknesses (avoiding tougher slant routes and deep balls). Getting guys to play better today than they played yesterday which was better they played the day before.
Teaching guys which passes to throw and which ones to eat. Smoothing the wobble out of a quarterback's spirals. Getting seniors to look like seniors who have been toughened by three years of Southeastern Conference football. Newton's throws were as high and wide Saturday as they were when he arrived as a Must-Have recruit from Carmel (Ind.) High School.
Midway through the second quarter Kentucky trailed, 10-0. Change a few plays and it's 3-3. The Wildcats were slugging it out quite solidly with the Gators, forcing three-and-outs on Florida's first two possessions. If UK creates any offense, things get interesting in the steamy Swamp.
But this is what happened in the Wildcats' final four possessions of the half:
Newton completed 1 of 8 passes for 12 yards – with three interceptions, one for a 26-yard Florida touchdown.
Daryl Collins was open (by 10 yards) for a 75-yard touchdown pass along the Florida sideline. Didn't come close to getting the ball. Phillips stuck with Newton for two series in the third quarter before playing freshman Jalen Whitlow, who was equally ineffective.
For the day, Kentucky's quarterbacks were 8 for 27 for 60 yards with three interceptions. Won't work -- just as it didn't work when Maxwell Smith threw four interceptions in a loss to Western Kentucky a week earlier.
"He (Newton) was throwing to the right person, we just weren't very accurate," Phillips said. "For us to be successful in this offense, we have to be able to throw and catch. We weren't able to do that today."
"I tried to be there for my team," Newton said. "It didn't work out very well."
Newton appears to be a solid, engaging kid. He tries hard. He wants to win. I'm sure he prepares. But Newton has become a symbol of what has gone wrong under Kentucky football since Phillips took over from Rich Brooks. Like too many players in UK's junior and senior classes, Newton makes too many of the same misplays he made two or three years ago.
He has not improved. He makes bad reads. He makes bad throws. He makes you wonder A) what the recruiting gurus were watching when they ranked him one of the best quarterback prospects in the country four years ago or B) why the Kentucky coaches haven't been able to get all four recruiting stars out of him.
"My job is to try to be as ready as possible if something happens like it did today and try to help the team out as much as possible," Newton said.
Newton said he has been placed in a difficult spot. He took over after Kentucky's best receivers and playmakers were departing. Now he's finishing his career as younger and more talented receivers have arrived.
Newton said he wished he would have received more snaps with the first team in practice last week. But Phillips and UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said the decision not to start Smith wasn't made until they watched him flutter passes during warm-ups Saturday because of Smith's injured right shoulder.
Smith wanted to take a pain-killing shot and play. Phillips said, "No." He wants Smith to heal and be ready for South Carolina in Commonwealth Stadium Saturday. That meant Newton got the call. Now Phillips says Smith should start Saturday and the coaches will prepare Whitlow, not Newton, as the number two quarterback.
"It just has been tough," Newton said. "It makes me look like a much worse player than I probably am."
Kentucky has too many guys who look that way.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
Sign Up for the WDRB Sports Newsletter
Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:33 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:33:46 GMT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Only three rookie pitchers in the National League have struck out more hitters than Tony Cingrani this season. He struck out 28 guys and walked four in his first three starts withMore >>
Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati's top pitching prospect, returns to start in Louisville Thursday. Rick Bozich also discusses the future for U of L baseball and former Cards hoops' star Terrence Williams.More >>