Kentucky vs. Alabama State: Keys to Saturday's game

mstory@herald-leader.comNovember 1, 2013 

Kentucky's Jalen Whitlow (2) passed to Kentucky's Jordan Aumiller (86) in the third quarter of the Kentucky at Mississippi State football game at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss.,, on Oct. 24, 2013. Mississippi State beat Kentucky 28-22. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

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Quick facts about Saturday's Kentucky football game against Alabama State at Commonwealth Stadium:

THE GAME

Alabama State (6-2, 6-1 SWAC) at Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Stadium

TV: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast; available in Lexington for this game only on Time Warner Cable (digital only) Channel 505; ESPN GamePlan pay-per-view package; online at ESPN3.com

Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, XM Channel 200, Sirius Channel 157

Series: The teams have never met

Line: None.

THE KEYS

Show up ready for a fight

Led by former Georgia star running back Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State features multiple transfers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools. The visitors come in on an uptick, having won six in a row. Last week, the Hornets played in front of a crowd of 63,113 (for a meeting with Alabama A&M at Birmingham's Legion Field) that will likely be larger than what is in Commonwealth Stadium. There is little reason to think the visitors from the Football Championship Subdivision will be intimidated.

Better quarterback play

There's reason to think that better QB play could have made the difference for UK in its tough road loss at Mississippi State. After Maxwell Smith's struggles in Starkville, Jalen Whitlow will try to shake off the impact of a bad ankle sprain suffered against Alabama and reclaim the Cats' starting job. If Whitlow gets injured again, UK head man Mark Stoops said that the redshirt could come off true freshman QB Reese Phillips this week.

Stop the run

Alabama State is seventh nationally among FCS schools in rushing (261.8 yards a game). Crowell (833 yards) has been slowed in recent weeks by an ankle injury but his backup, Malcolm Cyrus, has proven almost as potent (740 yards). For a UK run defense that ranks 13th in the SEC (allowing 204.6 yards a game), this will be a formidable challenge.

THE MOOD

Is patient. Mostly. UK fans are giving new coach Mark Stoops a "free season" in 2013. Given that the coach inherited a 2-10 team in need of a substantial talent infusion, that's fair. Still, an SEC program, even a struggling one, should beat an FCS foe. If that doesn't happen Saturday night, it will test some of that patience.

MARK STORY

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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