It took a late 84-yard drive with Lynn Bowden at the quarter capped off by a touchdown from Christopher Rodriguez to save the Cats from further embarrassment.
My question is this: why did it take the coaching staff so long to make the change at QB? It’s not that Sawyer Smith was just completely ineffective. The stats speak for themselves: 11/32, no touchdowns, and an interception with a 34% completion rate.
But I’m not going to sit here and put all of the blame on Smith. His receivers didn’t help him very much at all. There were times when Smith threw the ball to a spot and the receiver was in a completely different area. Who is to blame there? I’m not sure but I doubt that everytime that occurred it was on Smith and Smith alone.
It was also clearly evident that Sawyer Smith was hurt. Actually, let me rephrase that — Sawyer Smith is injured. There was no zip on the ball. Many times the ball was falling way short of where the receiver was supposed to be. He got up wincing and grabbing his shoulder everytime he took a hit.
There’s no getting around it: Smith couldn’t throw the football.
And this is what angers be the most about the debacle on Saturday. The coaching staff knew going in how hurt that young man was yet they still opted to keep him in the game. And not only did Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops keep him in the game, they continued to have him throw the ball 32 damn times.
I can feel my blood pressure rise as I type.
After the game, Stoops lauded Smith for his toughness.
My response? Save it, Stoops. Any kid that’s competitive on any level is going to tell you that he/she is ok and ready to play unless the injury is so significant that the player can’t get off the field or court under their own power.
So of course when Stoops or Gran ask Sawyer Smith if he’s good to go, he’s going to say that he wants to stay in the game. It’s the job of the coaching staff to analyze the performance, read the body language of the player, and then determine whether or not he is well enough to stay in the game.
Stoops even admitted in his postgame press conference that he probably should have pulled Sawyer Smith earlier than he did. That begs the question: why in the hell did you leave a player that was clearly injured in the game?
Mark Stoops has done great things at UK. He gave us a dream season of 10-3 and a big time bowl win. That can never be taken from him or the program. But Stoops is one of the most stubborn people on the planet (as are most football coaches). He was too stubborn to pull Smith and go with option B or even option C.
Maybe he and Eddie Gran thought that during the course of the game as he was taking a pounding (thanks to a puke worthy performance by our greatly lauded offensive line) he was going to miraculously recover.
The actions of Stoops and Gran are examples of coaching malpractice to the infinite degree. Not only did they choose not to act as their offense was stuck in the mud, they took the health and career of Sawyer Smith and gambled with them.
And for what purpose? To get shut out on the road by a 1-3 South Carolina team.
I’m not saying Lynn Bowden or Walker Wood are the answers at the QB position. What I do know is that an injured Sawyer Smith definitely isn’t the answer. And that’s on Stoops and Gran to recognize and adapt.