Andy Lyons - Getty Images
More on Patrick Towles' injury, the playcalling, and whether or not Joker Phillips should be held accountable for a season decimated by injuries.
If some of you are wondering where the news story about Patrick Towles injury went, I'll tell you -- I deleted it accidentally while working on another post. Sorry about that.
To recap, Towles has a high ankle sprain, which means he is out for between two weeks and the rest of the season. John Clay had the story earlier:
1. Patrick Towles has a high ankle sprain. The freshman quarterback is being listed as week-to-week and will not play Saturday at Arkansas. My guess is he will not play the rest of the season. Head coach Joker Phillips didn’t say that. I have no concrete evidence on which to base that prediction. Towles said Saturday he wants to play. But let’s say he misses the next couple of weeks, which is certainly possible with a high ankle sprain. Why would you burn a prize recruit’s redshirt on the final four games of the season?
There is no timetable for his return, which means that Phillips still has the option for a medical hardship (medical redshirt) if the injury takes too long to heal. We know from past experience that it is hard to tell about these types of sprains. Since surgery is unnecessary, the recovery time is unknown -- it depends upon the person and severity of the sprain. A severe sprain could take over two months to fully heal, and that would take us right out of this year.
Towles will be wanting to play, though, so he'll try to get back. If he's mostly back before the end of the season, it will be an interesting dynamic between him and Phillips. We've seen how good he can be. Towles is considered "week to week," and I'd be surprised if we saw him again this year, although you never know.
Joker Phillips blamed the injury on Patrick's inexperience:
ON WHETHER, WITH ALL THESE INJURIES, HE HAS ANY CONCERNS ABOUT UK’S STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING: "No, those things happen. Again, how he landed and, again, I told him that, don’t fight, there’s no need, when a guy bear hugs you, you’re not in high school, you’re not going to shake those guys off. That guy that was grabbing him this time last year, he was probably 150 pounds and he could do that. But this year the guy’s a 300-pounder and, you know, go down. Go down gracefully. You gotta learn how to fall."
I think there's plenty of truth in that. Towles was trying to get away and extend the play when there was no chance of that happening. He needed to get rid of the ball or just take the sack. We see pros get sacked like that all the time, and they are smart enough to know that you don't get out of the grasp of a quality lineman that outweighs you by 110#. You curl up in a ball and live to play another down.
Just as Phillips said, these young guns aren't used to the speed, power, and skill of SEC players yet. You don't let them get hit like this in practice, so the only practical experience a QB gets being tackled is during a game, and that's when injuries can happen. I don't blame Towles for not knowing this, and I'm confident it has been explained to him. But he is young and thinks he's able to do it all -- I remember that feeling -- until he discovers that he's in a different ballgame now. If this is the worst that happens to him in football, he'll be very lucky, and it could be an invaluable lesson in self-protection.
John Clay takes on the complants of poor playcalling in the game on Saturday in this blog post, explaining:
Indeed, on that second series, taking over at its own 14-yard line, UK ran Jonathan George for six yards. That set up a second-and-four. George was again handed the ball and picked up three yards. That brought up a third-and-one. Again, George ran the football, but this time was dropped for a four-yard loss.
It’s easy to criticize play calls on a three-and-out series, but don’t knock a series in which two of the three plays were successful. A successful first down gets at least 40 percent of the needed yards. Accomplished. A successful second down gets at least 60 percent of the needed yards. That, too, was accomplished. The third down play did not work.
That's right, and I see where John is coming from. Playcalling can be based on a lot of things. After that TD Towles threw, it is just possible that MSU was gong to be coming hard at him on every possession just to see how good he really was. In fact, as Clay describes, they did exactly that on the next UK possession and sent Towles to the locker room and out of the game.
Overall, though, I agree in part, and dissent in part. I think that third down play, as well as Mississippi St. had been playing in short-yardage situations with the box stacked, called for a rollout, slant, or other short pass. I think the playcalling mistake, if there was one, was on second and four. That's when a play-action pass is most deadly. I think the playcalling was just a bit too conservative for the situation.
Ky Cat Stats blogger Brad Woodcock has an interesting piece today. He wonders if it's fair to judge Joker Phillips on this stretch of games where Kentucky has seen devastating injuries:
In my opinion, absolutely. The thing about it is not that the Freshmen have to play, but more that the Freshman are better than the upper classmen they’ve replaced. Serious questions have to be answered, such as why Patrick Towles was 4th on the depth chart? Why didn’t Cody Quinn get to play immediately? Why hasn’t Daron Blaylock seen the field more? How did two guys initially beat out Khalid Henderson at the WLB? Why does Justin Taylor and D’yshawn Mobley sit on the bench? Why haven’t Demarcus Sweat and AJ Legree gotten more touches?
Once again, I agree in part and dissent in part. I agree that Phillips must be judged by this stretch, and everything else he has done here. Is this an excuse? Not really. Injuries are a part of the game, and Phillips stock was low long before this unfortunate series of events. Brad argues about a bunch of freshmen being better, but I'm not really sure they are. They have improved, as players will when they get a lot of time, and getting touches for players is much more complicated in practice than it is in theory.
Still, I don't think the injury problems get Joker off the hook. Should it be taken into account? Yes, but the thing is, when you lose the fans to this extent, can you really afford to ignore the financial perspective? Every million dollars football does not earn as a result of poor attendance hurts not only the football team, but the non-revenue sports that depend upon football for their continued existence as well. If budgets have to be cut, it won't be in football or basketball, it will be in women's soccer or men's tennis.
Ultimately, I think that's the main thing, and if Barnhart does give Phillips another year and it blows up in his face, he'd better get the replacement hire right or he might be next. AD's get a lot more latitude than coaches, but not an infinite amount.