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Neal Brown on Smith, Whitlow, line play, penalties, team morale

By LARRY VAUGHT

NASHVILLE — Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said UK “didn’t play well enough to win” because of penalties, turnovers and mistakes in Saturday’s 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky.

“Thought we missed some opportunities in the third quarter when I thought we had a chance to kind of take control of the game. We’ve got to be better on first downs. I think that’s what hurt us. We got behind on the chains and we had a hard time overcoming that,” said Brown after his first game back at UK.

The former Boyle County High School three-sport standout talked about a variety of things after the Cats lost to Western Kentucky for the second straight year.

Question: Did Maxwell Smith make it a quarterback competition again with his play?
Brown: It’s been a competition the whole time. Going into the game, we had a plan to just kind of see how it goes. I thought he did a good job of being mature and handling it. I thought when he came in the game, he made some throws, made some big throws down field. And I thought he played well. It’s hard to say until I get a chance to watch it.”

Question: What happened on freshman Ryan Timmons’ fumble?
Brown: “It’s growing pains. You’re know if you’re going to roll out there with young kids, then you have an idea of what’s going to happen: some of it’s going to be good; some of it’s going to be bad. I thought he was really good with the ball in his hands, which I thought he would be. Obviously the fumble hurt us.”

Question: What about the play of Jalen Whitlow?
Brown: “He made some plays with his feet. He’s got to throw it better. I thought he was nervous. I thought it showed early. But it’s hard to say until you watch it.”

Question: Should he have gone to Smith before the fourth quarter?
Brown: “I don’t know. Ifs, ands, buts, you know what I mean? Jalen beat him there in camp. He played better in camp. We moved the ball. It wasn’t like Jalen was just coming up empty. Third quarter, the third-and-1 that we did not get, where (WKU) No. 4 (linebacker Andrew Jackson) made a good play, I thought that was a big momentum swing. I’m not trying to avoid your question; I just don’t know. He made a good play. I didn’t really notice him a whole lot through the whole game. He’s a good player, but he got us. That’s one I’d like to get back. I thought we left some opportunities out there in the third quarter. We had a chance to grab momentum. We had two pretty good drives.”

Question: What did Whitlow to win the No. 1 quarterback job that he didn’t do against Western?
Brown: “He probably missed a couple easier throws. He didn’t get one of our protections. Should’ve told the back to stay when he got hit. But he did some good things. We’ve got to be better around him. We can talk about quarterbacks for a long time, but we’ve got to be better around them, too. I think that has as much to do with it as anything.”

Question: What about the offensive line?
Brown:  “Well, we ran the ball well. We’ve gotta get better in pass protection. We did some good things in the run game.”

Question: Why so many penalties on the offense?
Brown: “I think it hurt us. We struggle when we get behind the chains. That’s kind of who we are right now, and we didn’t help ourselves. Especially on third down, twice. One time we had two of them in a row. We’ve got to be more disciplined than we were tonight.”

Question: Was the tempo what you wanted?
Brown: “You’ve just kind of get in a feel. You’ve gotta make first downs. I think when we got the drives, we played decent tempo at some points. Also, they were doing a good job getting first downs on the other side, and we’re not very deep on defense. So you don’t want to put your defense in a bind. We’ve got to get better on first down. That’s the key. If we get better on first down, then we can play fast, then we can move the chains. But today what happened was we didn’t do a very good job on first down, so you can’t set your tempo. If you look at it, I don’t remember the last time I played a game when I had 15 first downs. We’ve got to be much better at that.”

Question: Were there any standouts for you?
Brown: “I thought our O-line played (well) – other than the penalties. Running the football, they did a good job. Ray (Sanders) did some good things. Jalen did some really good things running the football. Max came in and made some throws. It was encouraging to see Demarco (Robinson) make that play there (on a late touchdown catch). So I think there were some positives. We’re going to have some growing pains. I’m not surprised that we weren’t a finished product here.”

Question: Do you worry the positive momentum will slip away because of this loss?
Brown: “I’ve been pretty realistic about where we’re at the whole time talking to people. We’ve got work to do. Our kids are trying hard. We’ve got a young group that we’re playing with, and we’re going to get better. We’re going to get better. This wasn’t the end-all. Obviously this wasn’t the result we wanted by any means, but it’s not the end of our season. It’s going to be a process. I knew what I was getting into.”

Question: What kind of turnout of fans do you expect for the home opener this week?
Brown:  “Hopefully they don’t lose hope. We knew when we took this job, it was going to be a process. We’re playing a lot of young kids. Some of them did some really good things, some of them didn’t. Some of them played like young guys. We’ve got to go back to work, create a winning mentality, and go just from week-to-week. I think coach Stoops said we have 12, one-game seasons. That’s basically what it is. It’s going to be a process. We knew that coming in. I’m not surprised. Not that we didn’t win the game. I felt like we could win the game, but there’s going to be some growing pains.”

Question: What was the most surprising about this game?
Brown: “I didn’t think we would have that many procedure penalties. That was a surprise for me. I thought we would be better on first down. Those were two things I was disappointed in. I guess they were surprising, but more disappointing than anything.”

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13 comments

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  1. Little Baron

    Tough start but this staff inherited an empty cupboard, for the most part, & these reqlly good freshmen will develop into consistent play-makers. Great run by Timmons & some excellent plays by other playrs in 1st year @ UK.

    QB… If this team is going to have the high-powered offense and fast pace, then we need a genuine QB, Maxwel, and not a running back, Whitlow. Whitlow cannot throw deep and lacks the accurate sharp passing that Maxwell has. We went DEEP over & over with the real QB in the game, and had some big gainers, but it was catchup late in the game. With a real QB from the start, we can have BOTH passing and running. Whitlow is athletic and can be valuable in some short yardage wildcat formations and other sets but we do not need a running back at QB (if he can’t pass deep, sharp & accurate. His stats (10/15) are miss-leading because he gained very few yards passing lateral a lot.

  2. Ira

    I agree, hope we don’t get into a QB controversy over this loss, but Maxwell coming in late in the game looked poised and moved those chains. With those passing yards the running game would have opened up. Play action pass that WKY killed our D on all night with.

    New staff, lets see if they are flexible enough to change, or keep with a running QB. Just to my untrained I, our offense really seemed to perk up when Maxwell came into that huddle.

  3. Little Baron

    Perk up – you hit it on the head – that’s exactly the right word to describe what a flat-line offense did the moment Smith took over.

    Although Stoops made the right call for normal football teams & games when he kicked the FG, it came back to haunt us when the extra point was missed and then the onside kick was a disaster. I hoped for a Hal Mumme call and go for it instead of a FG since we were moving the ball, but may not have made it.

  4. Andy

    The question lies as to who decided Jalen should have started over Max? Stoops or Brown?

  5. TheProfessor

    I would like to have seen Smith in the first half, when the game was still undecided. However, the game was still undecided because Jalen was able to put enough points on the board to stay within reach even though the defense was unable to stop WKU except when WKU stopped itself with fumbles.

    As for the choice of Jalen over Max to start, that was a staff decision after watching these guys day after day in the spring and in August. Do these coaches get no credit for their knowledge and ability to make such basic decisions after just one game in their tenure?

    My default position is to defer to the coaches about those things I do not know, and have no way of knowing. However, about what to expect from this program, I do have a basis to have said during the off season, this is a 2 to 4 win team, against this particular schedule, and that is exactly what I saw on the field last night. Not happy about it, but it is what it is. Those who spoke confidently of 5, 6 or even 7 or more wins this season were not grounded in the reality of this program’s condition.

    1. Larry Pup

      It ain’t over yet. I didn’t like what I saw last night, but one game don’t make a season. Am I disgusted, you bet. UK just got whipped. I hope they go back to work and learn from this. I was extremely disappointed in our front four. That was supposed to be the strength of this defense, now I’m not so sure.

  6. Andy

    If we are to be an Air Raid attack, its time to let Max air it out and get him some tight ends. The offense that we ran yesterday gave Western all kinds of time to prepare and the penalties. Bobby P was one step ahead and we were one step behind. It would make sense that they should have brought Max midway in the 3rd quarter.

    The defense was another story altogether. Every time Western had the ball, i feared they would score. They controlled the LOS and handled Rumph and Cobble pretty well. Western had a bigger chip on their shoulder and played like it.

  7. Georgia Blue

    Why didn’t we run JoJo more 1 carry 9 yds . George 7 carry 16yds and Sanders 14 carry98 yds. We need to put the ball in TIMMONS , BLUE , DeMarco , SANDERS and KEMP hands. I saw last night that these guys are our playmakers

  8. OldFan

    78 yard passing in three quarters won’t beat a good high school team much less a good college team. UK needs a quarterback that thinks pass first, and can make the pass, and thinks run second. You have to have someone like Cam Newton or RG III if you go with the idea of a dual threat quarterback. I like Jalen, but he is no RG III and there aren’t many of those athletes around. Also, when Jalen won the QB competition, that was against UK’s defense. We saw how they handled the run last night. Any QB that can walk and chew gum at the same time would look like Heisman material against the defense UK played last night. Jalen may have won the UK QB competition, but when they played against a decent defense, Smith looked much better with more composure, more confidence, and more abilty to move the chains.

    1. goUKats

      Very well put OldFan.
      The thing that disappointed me the most was the way the team began the game.no fire,no energy,and looking like a carbon copy of last years group.It looked like the only change was in the staff names,not their coaching.And Jalen is still having difficulty throwing the ball,and looked like the Jalen of last season.I expected more and it just wasn’t there.

      If Jalen Whitlow is better than Towels and Phillips,then they need to pack their bags and head for greener pastures.

    2. mpennery

      Yours is the best and most insightful comment on here. Their biggest weakness influenced their most important decision, unfortunately in the negative direction. And it’s perfectly understandable and the interesting thing will be will they be aware enough to recognize it.

  9. ScottA

    I wish I had been wrong about Whitlow. I think he must be a practice star. In all the games I saw him in, he has not been a good QB. At the spring game he looked OK, but if you were watching you saw Bud and Smith get to him several times for what would have been sacks. With no pressure Whitlow would be OK, but that is not reality. Everyone says he was dominate that game, I think Phillips was the star of that game. I’m not sure Smith is the answer either, he is probably dragging around the injury bug. Whitlow is supposed to have a quick release, but his telegraphing of passes got his receivers killed vs. WKU on those laterals. This coaching staff will hopefully use Whitlow at another position so he can help the team and for Wildcat formations. Go Cats!

  10. RJ

    In a nut shell. If your QB has to run, then the O line isn’t getting it done in protection. And, if you plan your game around that belief, the starting QB is a runner ergo Whitlow. Whitlow Is not a QB. I watched from the stands (painfully) as he missed pass read opportunities one after the other. Whitlow does not have a passer’s vision or at least didn’t show it.

    Was starting Whitlow a mistake? Probably. You are certainly not going to build an air raid offense around him. Three yards and a cloud dust offense maybe. UK could have had the offense that we played and save a whole lot of money by keeping Joker which was not the plan according to the new coaching staff.

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