After mulling over Saturday’s embarrassing loss in the Swamp, I have some questions about this Kentucky football team. From Maxwell Smith not playing to a hoax of a Twitter ban, something fishy is going on with the program, which unfortunately, probably indicates bigger problems within.
— All week, we were led to believe that Maxwell Smith’s injury wasn’t that bad, that his shoulder was sore, but not to the point that he couldn’t play. Here’s a timeline of how it went down:
Wednesday: Maxwell Smith: “My shoulder, it’s alright. It’s definitely not 100 percent. Just alright right now.”
Thursday: Joker on Maxwell: “He looked good today throwing. I’m not concerned about Max.”
Thursday: Joker receives bad report from trainers about Maxwell’s shoulder
Friday: Joker talks to Randy Sanders and they decide to go with Newton
Saturday during warm-ups: Joker and Sanders tell Newton he’s starting
Saturday during first half: Maxwell on sideline in pads, uniform
Saturday during second half: Maxwell on sideline in street clothes with his shoulder iced
Saturday after the game: Joker tells reporters that Smith wanted to go and was willing to play, but Joker didn’t want to risk him further injuring his shoulder.
So many questions, the most glaring of which is why didn’t the staff let Newton know he was going to play earlier than warmups? Newton hasn’t been taking as many snaps at QB during practice due to his new role in the offense (H-back, slot receiver, wherever they can use his “athleticism”), so any kind of heads up would have helped him prepare. Is it possible Joker and Sanders were considering starting Whitlow or Towles instead of Newton? If so, why didn’t they put Whitlow in sooner after Newton was obviously failing?
After Newton had thrown three interceptions (and only seven receptions, if you remember the live blog scoreboard) and looked absolutely abysmal, Joker still hesitated to play Whitlow. I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated at a coaching decision before. You know when even the announcers started trotting out the “Morgan Newton is a great guy, BUT” comments, it’s time to show some mercy and bring the kid out. When asked about it after the game, Joker told reporters this: “It’s a tough place to ask a true freshman to come in. We decided we were going to give him one more series and then they scored, so we decided to give him one more and by that time it was out of hand, late in the game.” Heads up, Joker: it was out of hand long before that.
— Also odd: this so-called “Twitter ban” 24 hours before and after games. Either that was only a rule for the Kent State game or the staff just doesn’t care. On Sunday, half of the team tweeted about the loss. Most were “keep your head up, let’s band together” team spirit tweets, but there were a few notable exceptions. After his father told Kyle Tucker that he wanted more playing time and rumors went around the web that he was considering transferring, Patrick Towles took things in his own hands and tweeted that the only place he wants to play is the University of Kentucky. Maxwell Smith tweeted that it was a coaches’ decision to hold him out but ” trust me… I wanted to play!” Morgan Netwon‘s tweet? It may have been the saddest of them all:
At some point on Saturday, the blame for Kentucky’s failures on offense shifted from Newton to Joker. Newton looked miserable, yes, but it is the coach’s responsibility to make a change if things aren’t working. Once Whitlow came in, the offense started to move again, but it was too little too late. The only thing more frustrating than decision to keep Newton in was the fact that had we played well on offense, we might have had a shot at beating Florida.
The most telling signs of Kentucky’s problems right now aren’t even on the field; they’re behind-the-scenes. And sadly, that seems to make a case for major change impossible to ignore.