LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky football team has completed on-field preparation for its showdown with Southeastern Conference foe Missouri on Saturday. The Wildcats and Tigers will have their third-ever meeting in the series on Saturday at Noon ET on ESPNU.
This is the first time since 1965 that a UK football team has played in Columbia, Mo., meaning the stadium and surface will be new to players and coaches. Because of the unfamiliar setting, Phillips has decided to have a short walk-through Friday afternoon at Faurot Field Memorial Stadium.
“We'll go by the stadium and have a little walk-through,” Phillips said. “I considered doing it once I figured out the number (of freshmen) who went on the road the first time at Florida. I considered going to the stadium, taking those young guys to the stadium then, but we fly into Ocala, which is about 40 minutes away so it kind of was out of the question. Now, with us going into Columbia, we'll drive by the stadium just to get familiar with the locker room, get familiar with the field, which sideline is ours, all of those things because it's a lot of guys who are unfamiliar with the place.”
The return of injured true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles has been talked about a lot this week. Phillips said Thursday that Towles has held up well this week in practice and has been “moving around better than I ever would have thought.” Fellow true freshman Jalen Whitlow will still start, according to Phillips, but Towles is expected to see playing time.
Phillips said the rotation at quarterback due to injury has been difficult on the play of UK’s wide receivers, but he has been happy with how those players have responded and handled it.
“The thing that's been difficult for those guys out wide is you have to change gears in how we're playing now,” Phillips said. “We were a team that was throwing the ball 45, 50 times a game, and now we might be lucky if we throw it 25. That's the difficult part in convincing those guys to continue to play hard and show up to practice. They've done an outstanding job of that.”
One area that must continue to show improvement and be a plus for UK offensively is the running attack. The Wildcats had a season-best rushing attack last weekend against Georgia.
“First of all, the run game starts up front, and those guys have done an outstanding job,” Phillips said. “We just have not been able to stick with the run as long as we would have liked to. Jonathan George, I'm really pleased with the way he has run the ball. Then the change- up has been Raymond Sanders. I keep saying this, the other guy (freshman Dyshawn Mobley), we've got to get him in the game. We'll see if we can get him four, five, six carries. He needs to get carries because he's such a talented guy. He's got a great attitude and is playing really well for us on special teams.”
On the injury front, Phillips said injured defensive backs Martavius Neloms, Mikie Benton and Cartier Rice will all make the trip to Missouri. Neloms has seen the most limited time in practice, according to Phillips, while he has also had to deal with being “under the weather.” Phillips said Benton would play and that Rice will be looked at again Friday. Offensive lineman Zach West practiced Thursday and will continue to be evaluated the next two days.