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Cats used bye “to heal up” and now QB Sawyer Smith expected to start against Arkansas

Quarterback Sawyer Smith (12) is expected to start Saturday night. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — A bye week did Kentucky some good last week.

Coming off three consecutive losses, including a 24-7 loss at South Carolina nearly two weeks ago, the Wildcats took advantage of an open date to get healthy for the remainder of the season, a stretch of games that includes five home contests, including a regular-season finale against instate rival Louisville.

“We needed that time to heal up and continue to work and work on us, first and foremost, improve in certain area and continue to build on some of the good things that we are doing,” Stoops said Monday. “We definitely needed the rest for quite a few of our players. It was a good thing.”

The week off gave starting quarterback Sawyer Smith a chance to heal and Stoops said the Troy transfer is expected to start against the Razorbacks.

“He took a solid week off,” Stoops said. “He needed that. The word I got from our trainer (Monday) morning was that he feels significantly better. That will be the plan and we’ll see (how the week goes) and it is what it is. He’s banged up … we’ll proceed with Sawyer and anticipate him being the starting quarterback and being able to play this week. That’s the plan and we’ll see how the week goes.”

If Smith is unable to go against the Razorbacks, a potential backup plan includes all-purpose performer Lynn Bowden, who took snaps at quarterback last week. Walker Wood currently is listed second on the team’s depth chart at the quarterback position, but Bowden took several snaps under center against the Gamecocks.

The bye week also gave Stoops and his staff a chance to take an early glance at Arkansas. The two Southeastern Conference foes haven’t played since 2012 and like, the Wildcats, the Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2) are struggling this season. In its last performance, the Razorbacks dropped a closer-than-expected 31-27 setback at Texas A&M on Sept. 28 at College Station.

“Our team is going to be hungry to play this game,” Stoops said. “It’s been a tough stretch, but (last week) gave us an opportunity to hit the reset button, reload and get ready for this next phase of the season.”

Stoops also is looking forward to playing at Kroger Field for the first time in three weeks after losing two straight road encounters — at Mississippi State and South Carolina respectively. In addition to homecoming, Saturday’s game has been designated as Jared Lorenzen Day. The former Kentucky standout quarterback passed away last July following a short illness.

“We’re excited about this opportunity and it’s really good to be home,” Stoops said. “It’s been a while. I’m excited to get get back at Kroger Field and play in front of our home fans and it’s a special day and a special week to remember Jared Lorenzen.

Stoops said Lorenzen is one of the most “beloved” and “iconic” players to play at Kentucky.

“It will be an honor for us to recognize him and his family this week,” Stoops said.

Gametracker: Arkansas at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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  1. Hopefully the bye week will help some of the coaching staff recover from their brain cramps. This team has not been mentally and physically prepared to play and finish last 3 games. If the team doesn’t want to do it for Stoops/Gran hopefully they will be inspired to do it for Jared.

  2. “… it is what it is. He’s banged up … we’ll proceed with Sawyer and anticipate him being the starting quarterback and being able to play this week. That’s the plan and we’ll see how the week goes.”

    I do not believe coaches explicitly tell falsehoods, and I do believe coaches make personnel decisions guided by the strong need to win.

    Therefore, the only conclusion I draw from this article is the Coaches have concluded after a week off that an injured, lame Sawyer Smith is the QB option that gives this team the best chance to win.

    So sad.

  3. I will wait and see what happens. I hope if UK does start Smith, they go to option two if he struggles, and I mean early.

  4. I don’t see how a fan can do anything other than wait and see.

    However, if a beaten up Sawyer Smith is UK’s best option to secure a win, then how bad are UK’s other QB options? That is on the coaches, not the fans.

    1. Well, let’s see, I could be very critical now on this latest development in starting Smith, if that is indeed the plan, but will just wait and see how these coaches handle the QB situation against Ark.

  5. Why doesn’t UK ever have a Freshman QB that can come off the bench and play???? Look at what that kid from Florida did to UK and think back about all the backup QBs that have killed UK in the past.
    Does Hinshaw even know how to get someone prepared??
    If I was Stoops, I would be finding out what is going on.

    1. It is strange, it really is. Other teams in the SEC face the same set backs at QB, due to injury, etc. and always seem to have a young man ready to go. UK, not even close. They go out and recruit a JC, player, or go after a transfer candidate. They are good at running QB’s off, i. e. Gunnar Hoak. Hoak’s departure put this football team in a real bind all because of coaches who will not give a young man who has earned the right a chance, even when the starter is almost lame.

  6. The hard cold truth is that KY is not a football school. The best kids go to the blueblood football schools even if they know they won’t be starters. That is how you have depth. We are lucky to have at best 50% of our starters come from the 4 star ranks, the rest will be 1, 2, or 3 star players and some not rated at all. When a starter goes down, he is replaced with a much lesser talent in most cases and the level of play confirms that. To say that we will ever become a blueblood football program would be like saying Texas A&M will become a blueblood basketball program. Even our 10 win team last year was not competitive with the top tier SEC teams. We have to schedule 3 Popcorn States and then hope that Vanderbilt is still bad, beat another SEC team that is having a down year, and finally beat a Lousyville team that is struggling just to get a Music City bowl game. In those years when Lousyville isn’t so lousy and Vandy is the only winnable SEC game, we will watch the bowl games on TV like we usually do. Water is wet, the sky is blue, and KY is not a football school. Sure, we have a 3 year bowl game streak going, but we could just as well be looking at another 3 or 4 season stretch where we don’t go bowling. Recruiting 3 and 4 star rated players isn’t going to change that.

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