Towles Forgets Critics, Silences Them with Big Game

Even though Patrick Towles had deleted all his social-media accounts from his phone, the noise was inescapable following a disappointing loss to Florida last weekend.

Seemingly everyone in the state had an opinion about Kentucky’s starting quarterback, and the most vocal among them seemed to believe Towles should be removed from the role.

“It’s a good thing I don’t care about most people,” Towles said with a smile.

The smile was well-earned after what Towles had done in leading UK to a 21-13 win over Missouri, its first over a ranked opponent in five years.

Answering the criticism with arguably his most complete game as a Wildcat, Towles completed 22-of-27 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns against a Missouri defense that ranked in the top five nationally in scoring defense coming into Saturday.

“I was telling the team in there that I'm pretty stingy with game balls, but I think he deserved one tonight,” Mark Stoops said.

Towles, however, didn’t earn the game ball just with his performance on Saturday. It began on Sunday when the redshirt junior took his offensive coordinator’s message to heart.

Citing Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, Shannon Dawson reminded his signal caller that “It is not the critic who counts,” rather “the man who is actually in the arena.”

“Sometimes you just gotta go back to work and you gotta block that stuff out,” Dawson said. “Let it motivate you. Let it do whatever. But you gotta consider sources and you gotta believe in yourself, trust yourself, and when negative things happen you gotta put it behind you and you gotta move forward.”

Towles took the message to heart.

“You just gotta play free,” Towles said. “We’re not worried about anybody else but us and me. If I get in the habit of what everybody else thinks, I wouldn’t be very good. But I’m going out there and just trying to make plays.”

Along with focusing on his mental approach, Towles tweaked his throwing motion slightly at Dawson’s urging.

“I don’t know if it’s pitching in my blood or whatever it is, but I have a tendency to come three-quarters,” Towles said, referencing his Hall of Fame lineage with grandfather Jim Bunning. “And you can’t necessarily be super accurate then. So I was just trying to come more over the top, and I think it’s working.”

Considering he completed 81.5 percent of his passes – including a streak of 11 straight completions – after hitting on just 51.7 percent through three games, that’s safe to say.

“I knew eventually it would click,” Dawson said, citing the fact that Towles is playing for his third quarterback coach and offensive coordinator in four seasons. “I didn’t know if it would click tonight or not. This could have been a completely different press conference, but I knew eventually it would.”

Towles was poised in the pocket, evading the Missouri rush and creating additional time for his receivers to find openings. And when things broke down, he made plays with his feet.

His most notable scramble came on a play Towles requested Dawson call. Facing third-and-nine from the Missouri 14, Towles rolled out as the play called for, but came upon a Tiger rusher exactly as he expected. Towles dodged him, found space and sprinted 14 yards for UK’s first touchdown.

“We had another play called and I asked him to run that,” Towles said. “He said, ‘The end’s going to get up field.’ And I said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ And I did and it was good. I’ll take it.”

That was a bit of an understatement by a player who was clearly enjoying himself following a big win, and deservedly so.

“It feels unbelievable,” Towles said. “Incredible. Awesome. Great team win.”