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October 8, 2012Joker Phillips looks at game film this week and sees a reflection. In Arkansas, he sees Kentucky.
Both teams lost to a team from the Sun Belt in overtime. Both teams lost to an undefeated foe from the Big East. Both have taken a shutout from an SEC opponent.
The only difference is that the Razorbacks (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a momentum-building win at Auburn last week. That win snapped a four-game losing streak and gave Arkansas its first win over an FBS team this season.
["You look at our schedules, they've been pretty similar," Phillips said.
The Razorbacks even lost starting quarterback Tyler Wilson for a game after he suffered a concussion. There haven't been as many injuries to Arkansas as Kentucky has had this season, but the similarities are striking.
Arkansas entered the season as a top 10 team, but has struggled mightily so far this year. Kentucky wasn't nearly as highly-touted, but has struggled even more. Halfway through the year, both teams are fighting for their lives.
The schedule becomes a bit easier for both teams after the midway point of the year. Arkansas faces Ole Miss and Tulsa after the Wildcats. UK plays Georgia on Oct. 20, but faces Missouri, Samford and Vanderbilt in succession after that.
For the Wildcats to turn things around later this season, they'll have to get an even larger contribution from their young players than they've already gotten. On Monday, 27 of 46 players in UK's tw0-deep were freshmen or sophomores.
"We have an excellent freshman class," said freshman linebacker Khalid Henderson, who had a career-high five tackles on Saturday. "I expected all of them to come here and try and earn a spot. That's what we came here for."
No place has had more true freshmen play then in the secondary. Three of the top four cornerbacks for the Wildcats are freshmen, and it's possible a pair of freshmen will start at safety on Saturday because of injury.
Along with senior cornerback Cartier Rice, freshmen Fred Tiller, J.D. Harmon and Cody Quinn have played the majority of snaps at corner. Freshman twins Zack Blaylock and Daron Blaylock saw significant action at safety for the Wildcats last week.
"The opportunity has come, so they have to play and compete," Rice said. "They're doing well. They're locked in; they're staying focused."
Towles out for week
Freshman quarterback Patrick Towles is out this week with a high ankle sprain and is considered week-to-week going forward.
Towles was injured in the second quarter of Kentucky's 27-14 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. It will not require surgery. If he is unable to return this season, he is eligible for a medical hardship waiver.
"It's something we have to discuss with he, his family and compliance and make sure everything is in order," Phillips said. "I've talked to him and told him we'll do what's best for him."
Towles said after the game that he wanted to return this season if at all possible. With Towles injured, freshman Jalen Whitlow will play quarterback for the Wildcats. Senior Morgan Newton will be the backup, and walk-on freshman Jeff Witthuhn will travel to Arkansas as an emergency option.
Three safeties for the Wildcats are all day-to-day.
Senior Mikie Benton, senior Martavius Neloms and sophomore Ashely Lowery are all questionable for this week. Benton sprained an ankle late in Saturday's game. Neloms suffered a hamstring injury and the second quarter and was on crutches after the game. Lowery is experiencing concussion-like symptoms again after missing a game earlier this season with a concussion.
"It's been tough on (Lowery)," Phillips said. "That's a thing that we're taking a lot look at. We're making sure we won't put him out there unless he's healthy."
Sophomore linebacker/safety Kory Brown is still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago. He did not play on Saturday.
Sophomore safety Glenn Faulkner tried to run last week after returning from surgery for a high ankle sprain suffered in fall camp, but struggled. It appears doubtful that he'll play this season.