By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON —Patrick Towles doesn’t know if he did enough to lay claim to the starting quarterback job, but he was pleased with the way he played in Saturday’s Blue-White Game that ended Kentucky’s spring practice.
“All I can do is worry about what I am doing and continuing to try and get better,” said Towles. “I did some good things, some things not so good. But compared to last year it was way, way better.”
Towles earned the right to lead UK’s first-team offense on the first drive — a sign that he was ahead in the three-way battle with freshmen Drew Barker and Reese Phillips. Towles was a combined 11-for-15 for 126 yards with one interception while playing with both the first and second teams.
Barker was 7-for-19 for 74 yards and one score and Phillips 10-for-17 for 74 yards and two scores.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he would meet with offensive coordinator Neal Brown in the next week to analyze everything all three quarterbacks did this spring to evaluate if they are ready to name a starter.
“You saw Patrick do some good things. You saw the other two do some good things,” Stoops said. “Patrick, along with the other two, was shaky at times. But Patrick is improved. You see the improvement and I am proud of that. I think we are better around him. I think when everybody is healthy (at all positions), you will see all the quarterbacks look better.”
Stoops said he “really liked the other two” quarterbacks along with Towles and both are “great quarterbacks and certainly had great days this spring.”
However, Towles certainly did two things to impress Stoops and Brown — he led a touchdown drive on his first series and then took UK into the end zone on a drive in the final minute of the first half.
“I told you Patrick had made improvement. You saw it on that drive,” Stoops said. “He is doing good things and looks comfortable. It’s not easy to come in and play. It’s a different game going from high school to college. That’s why I am very proud of the way Reese and Drew played in the spring.”
Towles admitted he was frustrated at times last year when he was redshirting after failing to beat out Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, something he also could not do in 2012 when he played sparingly.
“I won’t lie. It was hard at times. But I just worked to get better,” Towles said.
Brown said Barker had played better in scrimmages than he did in his first Blue-White Game and that Phillips was maybe not quite as consistent as normal, either.
“Reese is consistent. I thought he was a little nervous early, too. He makes a lot of good decisions. He does not make big negative plays. He does not do things that hurt you,” Brown said. “But he’s played better than he did today. They all have.”
The Blue team had the first unit and won 38-14. Stoops was pleased with the overall play that included 328 yards rushing led by JoJo Kemp’s 90 yards and two scores on 11 carries and Mikel Horton’s 70 yards and one score on 13 carries with the White team.
Receiver Demarco Robinson had eight catches for 115 yards and versatile Ryan Timmons five catches for 47 yards and one run for eight yards. Braylon Heard, a transfer from Nebraska making his UK debut, had seven carries for 55 yards.
On defense, backup linebacker Daron Blaylock had a team-high nine stops and ZaDarius Smith had an interception and sack. Christian Coleman had two tackles for loss and one sack.
“I thought both sides did some good things,” Stoops said. “We kept it pretty vanilla on defense. We were a little bit more efficient throwing and catching the ball. We are not a finished product, but we are improved. We are getting better, but we have a long way to go. I was happy with the team’s energy. It’s been solid all spring. We went out today and played good, solid, clean football.”
Brown admitted the offense was “more talented” than last year and that by next spring UK should have a more competitive spring game with a better second-team offense.
“I don’t know if we had a strength (on offense) or not last year. We were not very good last year,” Brown said of the 2-10 season. “We are a little better. We have to have something to hang our hat on. Right now we are pretty good at running the ball and play action.”
Stoops said he feels “much better” about the team than he did a year ago.
“I really tried not to throw everybody under the bus, including myself, but we just weren’t very good,” Stoops said. “We are better. Not where need to be, but we are better.”