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 firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.