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By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky starting quarterback Maxwel Smith lost the “velocity” on his passes and had to leave Saturday’s 27-13 loss to Louisville, but anticipates he will be fine when UK plays again in two weeks.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after the game only that Smith “banged up his shoulder” and he was not sure of his status.
Smith was 9-for-20 passing for 109 yards, but had at least four passes dropped before he left the game. Jalen Whitlow went 8-for-17 passing for 105 yards and one score, but he threw an interception. Both quarterbacks lost a fumble.
Smith, who hurt his shoulder last season, said he was throwing a pass when his arm “got jerked back” by a Louisville defender. On the next play, he threw a pass into the ground.
“I could throw, but I did not have enough velocity,” Smith said. “I was not the best choice (to play quarterback). I could have gone back in, but I just didn’t have the same velocity.
“I think I will be fine and ready for our next opponent (Florida on Sept. 28). As far as I know, I will be fine but I really haven’t been checked out or anything like that yet.”
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said he was told Smith could not go back into the game. If something had happened to Whitlow, he would have gone to sophomore Patrick Towles even though freshman Reese Phillips was also warming up on the sideline after Smith came out of the game.
Brown said Smith “throws the ball pretty well” and that he has not noticed any lack of arm strength this year.
“He’s seemed fine,” Brown said.
Whitlow’s interception stopped a potential scoring drive in the second half just as Smith’s fumble did late in the first half. Whitlow did run for 37 yards.
“I thought Jalen did some good things but obviously he made some crucial errors,” Stoops said. “He can’t afford to make those mistakes. We had to go with him a good portion of the game. But we have to play better around him.”
Six Kentucky receivers combined to drop eight passes during the game, mistakes that Stoops said were “drive-killers” for his team. He noted an early screen pass that was dropped that would have given UK a first down instead of facing third down and 10.
“Until we start making the routine plays, we are going to have a hard time beating a top 10 team. If we had (made the plays), then we had a chance,” Stoops said. “It has not been that bad (in practice dropping balls). Unless coach Brown and coach (Vince) Marrow go out there, we just have got to keep working. I believe in our players. They can do it. That is something we have to do. We have to make routine plays. You can’t drop passes.”