The margin for error is getting smaller for Kentucky.
The Wildcats still have a shot at keeping the school’s five-game bowl streak alive, but must win three of their last four games to prevent the postseason from becoming a thing of the past. Two of those games are on the road — at Vanderbilt and Georgia — while the other two games against Ole Miss and Tennessee will be played at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky is 3-5, but has lost five of its past six games heading into the final month of the regular season. However, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips sees a silver lining below the dark clouds hovering over the program.
“(We’ve) still got a chance to have a special season,” Phillips said earlier this week. “(We’ve) still got a chance to reach some of our goals.”
Despite his optimism, Phillips also knows time isn’t a thing of luxury, either.
“This is an important week, because it (the margin for error), gets tougher and tougher every week,” he said. “You know, some of your goals start slipping away from you every week now, so we have to continue to keep them going, but thus far, it has not been very tough.”
In order to have a chance to gain a bowl berth, Phillips finds himself at the crossroads, with a decision to make that could make or break the postseason streak.
Aside from the pressure of winning and losing, Phillips has a late-season quarterback controversy on his hands between starter Morgan Newton and newcomer Maxwell Smith.
Phillips said the competition is simple: The player with the best chance to get the Wildcats into the end zone wins the job.
“We will compete with those two guys this week (and) see which guy gives us the best chance to win this game,” he said. “Both will get reps with the ones and the (second-string) and we’ll find out which one (starts) and one we feel like gives us the best chance to win versus Ole Miss.”
Phillips plans to evaluate the quarterback battle daily and make a decision later in the week.
“I think we need time to digest all of the things that we’ll be looking for,” he said. “We’ll probably wait until maybe Friday or even Saturday morning.”
Although the bowl picture is becoming more bleak for the Cats, Phillips expects his team to compete regardless of the situation or who the team’s signal caller will be against the Rebels.
“Everybody’s in this game to play, and when you come to play, you have to play with emotion,” the Kentucky coach said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. You have to bring the emotion when you’re playing this game of football.”
Phillips added that his team’s lack of success through eight games hasn’t been because of no effort.
“Our guys have shown up every week and went about their business the right way,” he said.
Phillips even noticed the same fiery attitude in Newton after he went down in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State.
“When Max Smith was in the game, I went over to try to find Morgan and he (was) sitting beside Max (Smith), talking to him about what was going on. ... Morgan was trying to help him, help this football team.”