He needed one minute and 55 seconds. That was plenty of time for Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker to turn things around in Nashville on Saturday.
The redshirt freshman rose to prominence this week heading into the Wildcats’ matchup with Vanderbilt when Kentucky coach Mark Stoops announced last week he’d open up the quarterback competition. Usual starter Patrick Towles had been struggling and Stoops was ready to experiment. So, with 12 minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter Saturday, Stoops put that theory to the test by inserting Barker into the game.
It immediately paid off.
Down 7-3 at the time, Barker cocked back for his first pass of the game — a 42-yard bullet that wide receiver Jeff Badet caught to move the Wildcats to the Vanderbilt 28-yard line. High on momentum, moments later, Barker threw his first career touchdown pass to Ryan Timmons, who also registered his first touchdown of the season. The Wildcats went up 10-7.
Heading into Saturday, the biggest questions surrounding Barker had to do with how little real game-time experience he had. It was just three weeks ago, against Mississippi State, that the redshirt freshman made his collegiate debut. Even then, it was in the fourth quarter when the game was far out of Kentucky’s reach.
Minutes after the touchdown, that inexperience showed when Barker’s pick-six handed Vanderbilt the lead right back. Both Barker and Towles have had their moments of brilliance, but also their moments of frustration, leaving the Kentucky coaching staff conflicted. By the second quarter, each already had an interception.
The Wildcats were looking for answers heading into Saturday — but perhaps now, they’re left with even more questions.