Coming off a 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky which saw his team struggle to get the passing game rolling until the fourth quarter, UK head coach Mark Stoops says Max Smith will get the starting assignment in the home opener.
Fellow sophomore Jalen Whitlow started against the Hilltoppers and completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts, but did not throw a touchdown pass and flirted with a couple of interceptions. He managed only 78 passing yards to go along with his career-high 75 yards rushing.
"Just because we're naming Max (the starter), we're not putting that loss on Jalen whatsoever," Stoops said. "There's an awful lot of people who can do things better, starting with me."
Smith entered the WKU game on Kentucky's first possession of the fourth quarter. Whitlow had led three scoreless drives in the third quarter that produced only 60 total yards as the Wildcats fell behind 35-17.
Kentucky drove 62 yards on 11 plays for a field goal on Smith's first set of snaps, highlighted by pass completions of 27, 13, 15 and 18 yards. He also threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Demarco Robinson with 1:37 left in the game.
Smith finished the game eight of 13 for 125 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and two sacks.
"Max came in there and did some good things," Stoops said. "Jalen did some good things as well, just like we thought he would. There were some critical errors from both quarterbacks. We need to improve at that position. We just feel like Max gives us the best opportunity this week."
Stoops indicated Whitlow would still get some snaps against Miami this weekend. The Redhawks had issues of their own in the season opener, falling 52-14 to Marshall. They surrendered 591 total yards, including 287 and five touchdowns through the air, a factor that the UK staff took into consideration when deciding to open with Smith this week.
"I think Jalen deserves an opportunity to play," he said. "Again, if Max is going out there and rolling and things are going good, then we'll stay with Max. (But) we want Jalen to play, and we believe he can bring some diversity to our package and make some people prepare for some different things with his skill set."
Whitlow set up UK's first touchdown against the Hilltoppers with a 50-yard designed run.
The quarterback position wasn't the only group facing some depth chart changes on Monday. CLICK HERE to read our complete notes and tidbuts from Stoops' press luncheon on our KyScout subscriber forum.