Alabama rolls Kentucky football 48-7

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 13, 2013 

To say Kentucky was fighting upstream against the Tide wouldn't do it justice.

It was more like a row boat battling a monsoon on top of a hurricane.

Kentucky was beaten, battered and banged up mentally and physically after being dominated by top-ranked, defending national champion Alabama 48-7 on Saturday night.

"We've got to play better," Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said after Kentucky's natural disaster in front of 69,873, the largest crowd at Commonwealth Stadium since 2010. "That's not acceptable no matter who we're playing. We know how good Alabama is, but we could do some things better."

Taking advantage of a depleted UK team that lost its starting quarterback and suffered several other key injuries, Alabama scored 24 straight points in the second quarter to start the dismantling.

"We need to improve and try to dominate the competition," said Nick Saban, whose Crimson Tide won their 10th straight game and their 17th in a row away from home. "I think we did that tonight."

"Dominate" seemed appropriate as Alabama racked up 668 yards of offense, the most against Kentucky's defense this season by 176 yards. The previous high was 492 yards allowed to Louisville.

Alabama had the second-highest offensive output of any UK opponent in school history, only behind Peyton Manning-led Tennessee's 695 yards in 1997.

In fact, this was the most yards ever given up by a Stoops-coached defense. The previous high was 585 yards allowed to Southern Cal in 2004 when Stoops was the defensive coordinator at Arizona.

The 369 yards passing was a career high for Alabama's AJ McCarron, who connected on 21 of his 35 attempts before coming out early through the fourth quarter. He also had a touchdown pass to Kevin Norwood.

Running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake led the way with two touchdowns apiece. Yeldon had 16 carries for 124 yards and Drake added 106 yards on 14 carries.

The Cats (1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) have a bye week next week before playing on Oct. 24 at Mississippi State.

To have a shot at bowl eligibility for Stoops in his first season, UK would need to win five of its final six games.

Kentucky managed just 170 yards of offense, its fewest of the season. The 13 first downs were UK's fewest this season and the Cats went 2-for-12 on third downs. Raymond Sanders was UK's lone offensive bright spot, gaining 73 yards on 14 carries.

"It's very frustrating," Sanders said after the loss. "We've seen what we can do when we execute well and everyone's on the same page and we can move the ball. We need to come out and catch the ball and make plays and help the quarterback out."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown couldn't say it any plainer.

"Alabama made us look bad," he said. "We will not be the only team that they make look bad. ... We've got to get more production as a unit and more production out of that position."

It didn't help that on the second series of the game, Kentucky starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow went down and the game plan went out to sea.

"It hurt in that we gave him a bunch of reps, we gave him the starter's reps this week and Maxwell (Smith) didn't get as many as he had been and we had a lot of quarterback run game in the game plan," Brown said, saying the QB run game also was supposed to serve as a decoy to help UK's other playmakers get some space.

Instead Kentucky found itself regrouping over and over again.

The Cats erased at least one annoying stat, scoring for the first time in the third quarter midway through on Javess Blue's 30-yard grab from Smith.

That was Kentucky's first trip into Alabama territory and the Cats took advantage of a 15-yard Tide penalty and managed to convert on a fourth-down play. It was just the second time this season that Alabama has allowed an opponent to convert on that down.

The scoring pass also was the first given up by the Tide this season to a quarterback not named Johnny Manziel.

But by then it was far too late. The damage was done.

The loss ended Kentucky's brutal stretch of games, which included a school-record four straight versus opponents ranked in the top 20.

Coming into the game, UK's average margin of defeat in those games was 12.7, but Alabama (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) didn't let it get nearly that close. They had 35 first downs to 13 for Kentucky. The Tide had 80 plays to 52 for UK and controlled the clock.

"I don't know if we competed as hard as we had in a couple of other games," Brown said. "I'm very disappointed in our performance. Our production is unacceptable, obviously not used to it. We will use this bye week and we will be significantly better."

Senior linebacker Avery Williamson said the team has to forget about this brutal stretch of losses, four in a row, and focus on the future.

"The first half of the season is over with," said Williamson, who led the team with 13 tackles. "We're in the second half. I feel like these games are winnable and we can still become bowl eligible. We've got to win five games to be bowl eligible. We've got to really grind and dig to try and get some wins."

Injuries mounting

Quarterback Jalen Whitlow wasn't the Cats' only major injury in this game. Without being specific about the injuries, coaches mentioned right tackle Kevin Mitchell and wide receiver Demarco Robinson as players hurting.

On the defensive side, Fred Tiller missed a considerable amount of time with a stinger.

"We're pretty banged up," Stoops said. "We've been in some big games for a while, and that — yeah, that bunch, they beat us up pretty good."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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