UK keeping two-quarterback offense against Vandy

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By Ethan Levine

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UK football head coach Joker Phillips announced at the start of the week that his team would implement its two-quarterback offense again this week against Vanderbilt.

Freshmen Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will once again rotate as the team’s signal caller, the same strategy Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders used a week ago against Missouri, and earlier this season against Mississippi State before Towles injured his ankle.

Phillips already confirmed that Whitlow will play the first two series, as he had done against the Tigers and the Bulldogs, with Towles substituting in on the team’s third offensive series.

This particular rotation drew criticism from Big Blue Nation on its use against Missouri.

The offense had seemingly begun to find a rhythm with Whitlow under center, but Phillips stuck to his plan during the week and brought in Towles on the team’s third series. Towles led two consecutive three-and-outs, completing just one of four passes for two yards.

“Only way you can make sure you get the other kid (Towles) in is have a plan before the game,” Phillips said to critics of his rotation. “We had a plan. We put him in on the third series. It would be crazy for us not to play him.”

Senior quarterback Morgan Newton also serves as an option in UK’s quarterback carousel. Newton has led the Cats’ redzone offense in recent weeks and also runs some Wildcat packages within the offense.

Phillips said he thought about turning the offense over to Newton as UK began to fall behind in the second half, but later chose to stick with Whitlow, who played most of the game.

Phillips assured the media that he would not alter the plan to bring Towles into the game on the team’s third possession. He did not specify much beyond that, but did argue that no matter the quarterback, the offense has lived and died with the run game in recent weeks.

“We had moved the ball, but how had we moved the ball? Run game,” Phillips said. “That’s what we thought we’d continue to do. Jalen had thrown four passes (when Towles came into the game against Georgia). I think the length of them, the longest was 5 yards. So the way we were moving the football was through the run game.”

The offense hopes that trend can continue this week with the Commodores coming to Lexington. The 38-8 beatdown Vanderbilt handed the Cats in Nashville a year ago still lives in the minds of UK’s veteran players.

But, fortunately for the Cats, neither Whitlow or Towles were a part of the program a year ago, giving each a clean slate entering the team’s final SEC home game of the year. So for Saturday, the only thing on the freshmen’s minds will be making plays.

“We’ve got to make some plays,” Phillips said. “We haven’t been able to make plays down the field, which gets people off of us.”