Kentucky quarterbacks have room to grow going forward


Quarterback Terry Wilson makes a pass during the game against Central Michigan on Saturday, September 1, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Saturday’s season-opener for Kentucky football was supposed to answer all the questions on the highly publicized preseason battle, but instead it only created more questions.

As head coach Mark Stoops announced on Monday, junior-college transfer Terry Wilson got the start for the Cats, but he did not have the first half he was hoping for. 

In eight first half drives, Wilson struggled, completing 6-11 passes for 38 yards while committing three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble. Wilson actually injured his left arm while throwing his second interception, which forced Gunnar Hoak to make his debut with 55 seconds remaining in the first half.

“You’re one play away if you are going in as a backup,” Hoak said postgame. “You have to have the right mindset every day you come here.”

That positive mindset helped Hoak lead Kentucky’s best offensive drive up until that point, a six-play, 71-yard drive that lasted 41 seconds and ended in a 24-yard touchdown pass to David Bouvier.

In just one drive, Hoak tallied 10 more passing yards than Wilson did in eight drives and clearly looked like the better option at quarterback.

“That’s as good as a two minute drive as you can get, I thought it was awesome,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said of Hoak’s first half drive.

At halftime it was determined that Wilson would be able to get back into the game, but Hoak’s head coach wanted to reward Hoak for his first half drive.

“Gunnar [Hoak] deserved the opportunity to go back and play for what he did at the end of the first half there,” Stoops said.

Hoak would play two drives in the second half, but he was not the answer the offense was looking for as he completed 1-4 passes for two yard in both drives. Both of Hoak’s second half drives ended in punts.

Wilson would come back into the game on the next drive and finish the game out at quarterback. Wilson led two of his four second half drives down the field for touchdowns to pull away of Central Michigan for the 35-20 win.

“I started getting more relaxed, I was letting the game to me, I wasn’t forcing it in the second half,” Wilson said. “Just relying on my technique, relying on what my reads are and just playing ball.”

Wilson did not commit another turnover in the second half and completed 5-7 passes for 40 yards.

Going forward, the biggest thing to take away from the game is that the quarterbacks are going to be a work in progress. Both are extremely inexperienced, and the only way to learn to to go through situations like they did against Central Michigan. 

“I think we could do a better job of putting a little bit of pressure on Terry [Wilson], and a lot of those plays are reads, and we’ll look into that, try to put him into a situation to get him comfortable and get him started,” Stoops said.

Luckily for UK, the defense and rushing game helped picked up the slack for the quarterbacks, as Benny Snell and A.J. Rose both rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns.

“Those guys are a huge help, you can see those guys are doing big things in the game and I can rely on those guys a lot,” Wilson said.

Even though the first game is one that players look forward to a lot, Wilson is happy to have his first game over with, and now knows what to do from here on out. 

“That’s out the way now, I know what to expect, so I just have to prepare and just play ball, don’t overthink,” Wilson said.