The last two Saturdays have been rough for the Kentucky Wildcats, especially for Sawyer Smith.
In last week’s loss to Florida, Smith suffered a wrist injury after chasing down and tackling Florida’s Shawn Davis after a long interception return.
The good news is Smith was able to finish that game and play this week against Mississippi State.
The bad news is he struggled today en route to a 15/41 outing for 232 yards and one interception. Part of that was due to dropped passes, but Smith made plenty of bad throws, including a pick-6 on the game’s first drive.
The worse news is Smith suffered a shoulder injury in the first half that lingered the rest of the game. Between that and the injured wrist, it says a lot about Smith that he was able to gut this one out and finish the game, especially since Kentucky had a chance to tie the game late if the defense just got one more stop.
After the game, head coach Mark Stoops gave an update on his injured quarterback, who played through a lot of pain in the second half.
“Sawyer got hurt at the end of the second quarter. He got dinged with his shoulder, went in, got an x-ray,” said Stoops. “At the start of the second half, he gave it some throws and was hurt, was in pain.
“I thought he was done, but he came back, gutted it out and really gave us everything he had in the second half, but he was dinged up in the shoulder.
Stoops added that he thinks Smith will play vs. South Carolina next week, but it’s no guarantee.
“I would think (he’ll play), but you don’t know how he’s going to respond or what he’s going to wake up and feel like.”
Behind Smith on the depth chart is redshirt sophomore Walker Wood. Wood is a former three-star recruit out of Lexington’s Lafayette High School. He has yet to appear in a college game after Smith is true freshman Amani Gilmore and walk on Kolbe Langhi. True freshman Nik Scalzo is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Hopefully for the Cats, Smith’s injuries do not keep him out of action, as the team does not have a single quarterback left with any college experience. At the same time, Smith’s health should be the No. 1 priority, so if he’s too banged up to play, Kentucky needs to sit him and go with someone else, especially with a much-needed bye week coming after next week’s clash with the Gamecocks.
Unfortunately, Smith isn’t the only key player dinged up who may end up missing next week. Redshirt freshman kicker Chance Poore was benched today after missing a pair of field goals, one of which was a 26-yard attempt.
Turns out, Poore is also playing through an injury, which helped lead to Matt Ruffolo finishing the game at kicker. But with or without the injury, Stoops admitted it was time to make a switch.
“Chance got dinged up,” said Stoops. “I think it was about time, possibly, to make a switch anyway. But he did get dinged up.”
Ruffolo ended up making a 29-yard field goal to make it 21-13 in the final minutes, so expect him to be the kicker next week at South Carolina. But hopefully this time, the offense can convert more red-zone trips into touchdowns and not settle for field goal after field goal. Four trips deep in Bulldogs territory ended in field-goal tries when at least two of them should have ended with touchdowns if not for some critical errors.
The best way for Kentucky to overcome its kicking woes is to stop squandering away touchdowns, but it’s clear that will be easier said than done.