Newton at his worst against best in SEC

Kentucky trailed LSU, 14-0, at halftime and has never once led at the half in any of the 10 SEC games it has played in Joker Phillips' two seasons as coach.

Morgan Newton is struggling under the pressures of being a starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference and the Kentucky junior began the second half of the loss to LSU on the bench.

That isn't a place you would expect to find Newton when the only other quarterback option is a true freshman.

But Newton missed on his first eight passes and was only 2-of-11 in the first half and Kentucky felt fortunate to be down by only 14 points in what turned into a 35-7 loss to the top-ranked Tigers.

"We thought we could use a spark and we wanted to give Morgan a chance to sit back and watch the game from a distance," coach Joker Phillips said afterward.

Newton returned later in the game after freshman Max Smith was overmatched and suffered an injury, but the Wildcats finished with only 155 yards of total offense.

Newton was 6-of-20 passing for 57 yards and drew post-game criticism from offensive coordinator Randy Sanders.

"He's definitely a little more indecisive than he needs to be, whether it's confidence in himself, the protection, the route-runners, whatever it is; there's several things that can make you indecisive," Sanders said. "I haven't been able to put my finger on exactly whichever it is. I wish I could.

"It's disheartening a little bit when you call a play and you get someone open and you don't execute it."

Phillips insisted that Newton still is the starter, but what's clear is the leash has become much shorter. The Wildcats (2-3, 0-2) visit South Carolina this Saturday and will once again be prohibitive underdogs.

Newton has completed only 50 percent of his passes for 647 yards.

"Plays are there to be made and we haven't made them," Newton said. "It's going to take the whole unit to get it fixed."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Kentucky trailed LSU, 14-0, at halftime and has never once led at the half in any of the 10 SEC games it has played in Joker Phillips' two seasons as coach.

--The Wildcats scored on this trip to Baton Rouge, something that didn't happen in their last two visits in 2000 and 2006. Kentucky has been outscored, 118-7, in its last three visits to LSU.

--Kentucky's defense played well for most of the game despite the 28-point margin of defeat. LB Danny Trevathan (13 tackles), S/LB Winston Guy (12), MLB Ronnie Sneed (11) and S Martavius Neloms (10) all reached double-digits in tackles.

KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Josh Clemons -- The freshman overcame hamstring soreness to carry 21 times for 69 yards against LSU, which was allowing only 53.3 yards per game on the ground entering the game. Making Clemons' performance even more impressive is that Kentucky had no semblance of a passing game. He has a team-leading 269 rushing yards.

LOOKING GOOD: RB Josh Clemons (69 yards) was one of the few bright spots on offense and senior receiver Matt Roark caught his first career scoring pass. LB Danny Trevathan (13 stops) recorded his 13th double-figure tackle game in his last 14. MLB Ronnie Sneed's 11 tackles were a career-best, while S Martavius Neloms (10) matched his career-high total.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Kentucky's passing game is horrid and ranks 118th nationally at 139.4 yards per game. QB Morgan Newton is losing confidence and Max Smith isn't ready to challenge him for the starting job. La'Rod King is the only wide receiver playing well. Kentucky is averaging only 15 points per game and has scored 17 or fewer points four times. The Wildcats had only 59 yards in the first three quarters against LSU. Kentucky allowed five sacks.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some of the things that we did show that we have a pretty good football team. We have to put it all together. We've got to find out if our kids are willing to fight, scratch and claw and I think they are." -- Kentucky coach Joker Phillips, after the loss to LSU.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES:

--QB Morgan Newton was sharply criticized by offensive coordinator Randy Sanders after a 6-for-20 performance against LSU. Coach Joker Phillips said Newton is holding on to the ball too long before throwing it. Either way, the junior has struggled through five games this season.

--S/OLB Winston Guy had two tackles for losses against LSU and has a team-best 6.5 in that category, as aligning him closer to the line of scrimmage continues to pay dividends. Guy's 12-tackle game was the eighth double-digit tackle performance of his career. He is second on the Wildcats with 53 tackles.

--DE Collins Ukwu has missed two consecutive games and the Wildcats miss his presence on the line. Ukwu's status for the South Carolina game hasn't yet been determined. He has a sack among three tackles for losses.

ROSTER REPORT

--DT Mark Crawford (shoulder) was injured in his first game since serving a four-game suspension.

--LB Ridge Wilson will have an injured finger on his right hand X-rayed.

--QB Max Smith (back, jaw) was banged up in his third quarter stint.


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