When Tide Begins Rolling, It Rolls Big
Unofficial statistics charged Alabama receivers with six dropped passes. The Crimson Tide officially lost two fumbles. And Alabama gave up a touchdown for the first time in a month. But all-in-all, it was a satisfactory performance for Bama.
In fact, it was more than satisfactory in most areas.
The Tide tied a school record with 35 first downs, while holding Kentucky to 13.
Bama had two men who both rushed for more yards than Kentucky. T.J. Yeldon had 16 carries for 124 yards and Kenyan Drake had 14 runs for 106 yards. The Wildcats had 34 rushes for 94 yards. (Yeldon and Drake both had two touchdowns rushing. Freshman Altee Tenpenny, one of five tailbacks seeing action in Lexington, scored the final TD.)
Quarterback A.J. McCarron – the dropped passes notwithstanding – completed 21 of 35 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown. He did not suffer an interception. Kentucky completed 7-18 for 76 yards and one touchdown.
Alabama had a 600-yard offensive night, 80 plays for 668 yards, an average of 8.35 yards per play. The Wildcats were held to 170 yards on 52 plays.
Kevin Norwood had four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, DeAndrew White four catches for 80 yards, Amari Cooper three for 64, and Kenyan Drake three for 44.
Cody Mandell got his work done early. Bama punted after its first possession – 47 yards to the end zone – and didn't punt again. (Mandell did hold on the last of Cade Foster's six extra point kicks.) Foster also had two field goals. Also in the kicking game, Christion Jones had three punt returns for 52 yards and two kickoff returns for 49 yards.
C.J. Mosley, as usual, led the Tide in tackling with seven. Freshman A'Shawn Robinson had six tackles and two sacks. Jarrick Williams and Darren Lake had five tackles each.
Top-ranked Alabama improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Kentucky fell to 1-5, including 0-3 in conference play.
Alabama continues in SEC play next week and returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide will host Arkansas at 6 p.m. CDT with television coverage by ESPN or ESPN2. After Saturday's 52-7 loss to South Carolina, the Razorbacks are 3-4 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
Bad hands were Bama's undoing in the early going. The first Tide drive was stopped when a wide open Kenny Bell dropped a pass at the Kentucky 30, forcing a punt. The second drive featured back-up tailback Kenyan Drake making a couple of nice runs deep into Kentucky territory, but he fumbled it at the Kentucky 11. Bama's third drive got down to the Kentucky 11, and then T.J. Yeldon had the ball knocked loose at the Kentucky 1.
At the end of the first quarter, Alabama had run 23 plays for 159 yards, Kentucky 12 plays for 30 yards, but the score was 0-0.
And there was another ball that slipped away that probably would have been a touchdown early in the second quarter. Yeldon was open on a wheel route – no Wildcats close – and McCarron's pass went off his hands. Eventually, though, Bama got on the board. Alabama had driven from its 26 to the Kentucky 7, but McCarron's third down pass was thrown away, bringing on Cade Foster to kick the Tide to a 3-0 lead with a 25-yard field goal.
From there, Alabama marched to a 24-0 halftime lead, scoring the final touchdown with just 24 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Bama's first touchown was a one-yard run by Drake, who capped a two-play, 43-yard drive. The first play, obviously, gained 42 yards, a McCarron pass that Kevin Norwood went up above two Kentucky defenders to haul down at the one.
The play had been set up by a 30-yard punt return by Christion Jones.
After a Kentucky punt was downed at the Bama 12, McCarron took the Tide on a 12-play, 88-yard drive that ended with Yeldon running it in from 24 yards out with 3:39 until intermission. That made it 17-0 and Commonwealth Stadium began to get very quiet. Drake had a run of 10 yards and a pass reception for 12 yards and Christion Jones had a running play for a 14-yard gain in the drive.
After Foster kicked to the end zone, the Wildcats were held to a 3-and-out and punted Bama back to the Tide 30 with 2:11 to play. The Tide started its two-minute drill with an 11-yard Yeldon run, followed by a 13-yard pass to Norwood. The Cats were hit with a 15-yard face mask penalty that put it at the UK 31. A pass to Drake picked up 24 and it was first and goal at the Kentucky 7. On first down, Jalston Fowler dropped essentially the same pass he had caught for the winning touchdown against Texas A&M earlier this year.
Alabama then had a false start that did not please Coach Nick Saban. On second and goal from the 12, Drake ran it to the goalline. On third down he had a dive over right guard for the 24-0 halftime lead.
Kentucky did not get into Alabama territory in the first half. The statistics at intermission had Bama with 22 first downs, Kentucky 4. The Tide had 49 plays for 372 yards, the Wildcats 24 plays for 62 yards.
So it wasn't as close as the 24-0 scoring margin made it look.
The second half looked like the first half in more ways than one. Alabama's defense allowed a first down, but then forced a punt. A McCarron pass was dropped by Bell to start the drive, but then Yeldon ran 24 yards to the Kentucky 45. McCarron then hit Amari Cooper on a play that gained 42 yards to the three. Yeldon was trapped in the backfield on the first-and-goal run, but slithered back and then pushed over right guard to the end zone. It was 31-0 just over three minutes into the third quarter.
Alabama's defense was working on a string of 14 quarters without having allowed a touchdown – since the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M – but that came to an end on Kentucky's next possession. An unneccesary personal foul on freshman Jonathan Allen – right after his fellow freshman defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson had turned in a sack – helped the drive along.
Kentucky starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow, a Prattville native, was injured when he was sacked in the first quarter. Maxwell Smith, who is considered co-number one, came on in relief, and Smith connected on a 30-yard pass to Javess Blue for the Wildcats touchdown. Joe Monsour's extra point closed the gap to Alabama 31, Kentucky 7.
Alabama got a few of those points back on the next possession, although it was not a particularly satisfying drive. For one thing, a McCarron pass for 40 yards to White was wiped out by a holding call. McCarron came back with a 31-yard pass to White to get it back into Kentucky territory. But the drive stalled at the Wildcats 2, and Foster kicked a 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
The first offense was still in when Alabama got the ball back with just under 12 minutes to play, but those players looked as if they were in a hurry to get somewhere. It took just four plays and barely a minute to go 80 yards for a touchdown and a 41-7 lead. Yeldon ran for 12 yards and took a pass for 21. White grabbed a pass for 17 to the Kentucky 25. McCarron found Norwood in the end zone to wrap up the march.
After that it was back-up players for Bama. The down-the-line defenders had a nice stop when Kentucky tried and fourth-and-one at the Alabama 43, holding for no gain.
That brought on the second offense with 8:55 to play. Blake Sims at quarterback alternated handing the ball off to tailbacks 3. Altee Tenpenny, 4. Derrick Henry, and 5. Dee Hart (and mixing in one nice 10-yard pass completion to walk-on Parker Barineau) until Tenpenny took it in from seven yards out with 1:41 to play.
Not many Kentucky fans were left in Commonweath Stadium to see Alabama 48, Kentucky 7. As they filed out through the final two quarters, they were probably muttering, "Wait 'til basketball."