Cats Cutting out the Pressure before Mizzou

Shannon Dawson has had plenty of time to think on Kentucky’s loss to Florida on Saturday.

He’s thought about dropped passes, missed blocks and overthrown balls. He’s stewed over poor play calls.

One thing, however, keeps coming to mind along with all of those things.

“It was a big game,” Dawson said. “We wanted to win the game. We wanted to show Big Blue Nation to the world in the worst way possible — coaches and players — and we failed. We failed because we just tried too damn hard.”

The 14-9 defeat has been all over Patrick Towles’ mind too. Now in his fourth season at UK, he’s been on teams that have lost for nearly every reason imaginable. He agrees with Dawson though: This one was different.

“Everybody on that team wanted that game with everything we had, and I think sometimes we got a little tight because of that,” Patrick Towles said. “Whether it was in the fourth quarter on that last drive, I think sometimes you can want it too much and I think we did that.”

The issue for UK’s offense, which gained just 241 yards against the Gators, is whether a lackluster performance that dropped the Wildcats to 2-1 will become another one. If Tuesday is any indication, don’t count on it.

“That was one of the better Tuesday practices we’ve had,” Dawson said. “What I told them was simple: We didn’t play good Saturday. Obviously, everybody in the stadium can see that. … It happens in this game that every now and again you’re going to have a game that you don’t play well, so you gotta move on. If you let that game linger, then it’s a problem.”

But it’s not as if Dawson is sticking his head in the sand. There are things that must be improved in order for UK to succeed against a stout Missouri defense on Saturday. To that end, he was crystal clear with his charges when he addressed them for the first time on Monday.

“Point your finger at yourself,” Dawson said. “When you get done with that game on Saturday and you sit there on Sunday, look at what you could’ve done to change the game, not what somebody else could’ve done. And that’s the way you’ve gotta view it.”

That’s certainly the way Towles is approaching it, though he is in the unique position of being the lightning rod as the starting quarterback. For that reason, he’s come to realize he needs to tighten his circle to a few valued opinions and tune out outside noise. That’s why he deleted all social-media apps off his phone Friday night.

“I was like, ‘I don’t need it. Good and bad stuff, it’s all noise,’ ” Towles said. “You always get too much credit and too much blame. I probably got too much credit after the South Carolina game, and I’m not going to speak about the Florida game, but yeah. I don’t need it. I’m moving forward.”

One of the people he is listening to is Dawson.

“We had a good talk Sunday night, me and Coach Dawson did, about doing that, just going out and playing, not caring too much, just going out and making plays and having fun out there,” Towles said. “And I think Saturday there were some points out there where I wasn’t. I was a little uptight for sure. You just have to have that mentality of ‘Hey, I’m not defined by how I play ball.’ You just have to go out and play hard every day.”

That starts during the week, which Towles and the Cats have done effectively up to and including Tuesday. Now they need to make it translate on game day.

“We need to play like we play at practice and just play loose,” Dawson said. “A lot of times in the game we’re just scared to make mistakes, scared to do things that I see them do every day at practice. So, we just need to go out there and put the ball down and play like nobody’s in the stadium, and we’ll be fine.”