There is no hidden gunslinger in Mike
Sorry, he's just not built that way. The Kentucky quarterback
doesn't have a cannon for a right arm, he doesn't see a receiver
streaking through double-coverage and think he can somehow thread
It's not that the senior doesn't want to. He just doesn't see
the point. He's not out there to gamble. He's out there to win.
"I don't look at the numbers, I really don't," Hartline said.
Neither does Louisville quarterback Adam Froman, at least, not
anymore. The senior who once threw for 525 yards in a junior
college game is no longer being asked to win games with his arm.
Froman is OK with that.
"My job is to be a leader and help our guys make plays," he
The word most associated with both quarterbacks, who face each
other Saturday in the Governor's Cup, is "efficient." While the
word can sometimes be the coachspeak equivalent of being told you
have a nice personality, it's not a moniker either player avoids.
"That's what you want out of your quarterbacks," Froman said.
"As a quarterback, not only do you have to do your job well, you
have to do it quickly, you have to operate in and out of the
huddle, run your plays with crispness."
Even if it means there are few chances for Hartline or Froman to
post the eye-popping numbers of predecessors like Brian Brohm and
While Kentucky coach Joker Phillips says the offense has the
chance to be as dynamic as it was during Woodson's senior season in
2007, when Woodson threw for a school-record 40 touchdowns, the
first-year head coach isn't really worried about it.
"Mike gives us the best chance to win games," Phillips said.
It's something Hartline has done when healthy during his career.
The Wildcats are 8-6 when Hartline starts, and he can become the
first Kentucky quarterback to beat Louisville three times if the
Wildcats prevail Saturday.
Yet Hartline has struggled to keep a firm grasp on the job. He
earned the spot by default as a sophomore when Curtis Pulley was
dismissed from the team when fall camp began. He appeared to be
flourishing last fall before a knee injury shelved him.
Freshman Morgan Newton did enough in Hartline's place for coach
Joker Phillips to declare the position wide-open when spring ball
That was fine by Hartline, who was eventually named the starter
a week ago.
"You need the competition," he said. "I believe I needed it
to get better."
The Wildcats will need Hartline to be better if they want to
take the next step up the ladder in the uber-competitive
Southeastern Conference. Hartline completed 59 percent of his
passes a year ago with six touchdowns and seven interceptions. His
longest completion was 55 yards and he's never come close to
posting a 300-yard game, something Woodson did seven times in his
Yet Kentucky managed a 7-6 record last year despite finishing
dead last in the conference in passing, averaging just 140 yards
per game. They survived behind a steady dose of versatile wide
receiver Randall Cobb, who became a big-play threat while running
out of the "WildCobb" formation.
While Hartline knows he doesn't have to play "bombs away" for
Kentucky to qualify for a fifth straight bowl game, he does have to
make enough plays to keep defenses from stacking the line of
scrimmage and daring him to throw.
"I think we can be better vertically," said Hartline, who
threw for 178 yards and a score in Kentucky's 31-27 win over the
Cardinals last year. "That doesn't mean I'm going to just throw it
down there and hope we come down with it."
Hartline believes big plays start out as little ones. A 50-yard
completion can just as easily be a screen pass executed perfectly
as it can be a heave downfield.
"We've got 10 other guys on offense who are on scholarship,"
he said. "My job is to help them go out and show how good a
football player they are."
It's a mantra shared by Froman, who volunteered to play on
special teams last year when Justin Burke won the starting job out
of training camp. Injuries, however, thrust Froman into a starting
role and he played well at times on a team that struggled mightily
to move the ball.
Froman threw for 1,354 yards and completed 60 percent of his
passes while starting seven games. Though his mobility made him a
perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's spread
offense, Froman still had to go out and beat Burke and Will Stein
during training camp.
"He has a presence about him, a leadership quality," said
coach Charlie Strong.
What he doesn't have, however, are proven playmakers at wide
Senior Doug Beaumont is reliable, but has failed to score a
touchdown despite hauling in 100 passes during his career. Troy
Pascley was slowed by injuries a year ago and junior college
transfer Josh Bellamy has yet to play a down of big-time college
Still, Froman remains optimistic. There's a clock on the wall
counting down the days until the end of the season. He's watched it
slowly tick away over the last four months. He knows there's little
time left. He's ready to make it count.
"I'm looking for a chance to prove this team can win and I can
win," he said.