Kentucky enters its second open-date week of the season in dire need of time to recover from arguably the most demanding stretch of games in school history.
The Wildcats faced their fourth consecutive Top 20 opponent on Saturday in No. 1 Alabama, who left UK with more than its fair share of bumps, bruises and sprains during a 48-7 beating on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Most notably, the Cats lost starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow on their sixth play from scrimmage to a badly sprained ankle. He spent the rest of the night with the medical staff and could be found on the sideline using crutches and sporting a heavy "boot" device to protect his left ankle.
X-Rays on the sophomore quarterback proved to be negative, but UK head coach Mark Stoops said Monday during his weekly radio call-in show that Whitlow may not be available for the Cats' next game on Oct. 24 at Mississippi State.
"It was better today than it was (Sunday)," Stoops said. "That's a good sign, and we'll re-evaluate it" on Tuesday.
"Jim (Madaleno), our trainer, likes to have about 48 hours to where he gets a good idea of how bad it is. I'd say there's a good chance (Whitlow) will be out at least this next game."
Whitlow had just won the starting job two weeks ago with his strong performance leading up to and during the South Carolina game. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns without an interception against the Gamecocks. He also rushed for 69 yards and a score.
But he didn't have much of a chance to test himself against Alabama on Saturday, rolling his ankle as he was sacked by the Crimson Tide on the Cats' second possession of the game.
Maxwell Smith completed the game in relief of Whitlow, but the sophomore from California was not effective against the stingy Crimson Tide defense, completing only seven of his 16 attempts for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Smith has been dealing with injury issues of his own since earlier this summer stemming from soreness in his right throwing shoulder. He has yet to look like the same player who threw for 975 yards and eight touchdowns through four games last season before going down, ironically, with a season-ending ankle injury.
For this first time since fall camp, Stoops acknowledged that the staff may give a closer look to sophomore Patrick Towles and freshman Reese Phillips if Whitlow is unable to play against Mississippi State.
"We'll get Patrick going, and we'll get Reese going. We'll get both of them going and see what our best option for a backup is," Stoops said. "Right now, it would be Patrick."
The staff had been hoping to redshirt, Towles, a former four-star signee and "Mr. Football" award winner from Kentucky's tradition-rich Fort Thomas Highlands program, as well as Phillips, a talented 2013 signee from Tennessee.
Stoops said he would not pull the redshirt off either player, though, unless they show in practice during the open week that they can execute the offense.
"Not unless we truly believe that Patrick would give us an opportunity to win that game and beyond for the rest of the season," he added. "We're in this to win some games. Mississippi State is up next, and we'll do whatever we have to do to give us the best opportunity to win that game."