Cats win one, lose two in rout of Alabama State

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 2, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Kentucky needed a win and got it, 48-14 over Alabama State on Saturday night.

But even the winning team left Commonwealth Stadium with a couple of key losses.

In two freak incidents, two UK receivers were injured, starting with Javess Blue taking a ball to the face in warm-ups and missing the game with an eye injury.

Freshman wide receiver Alexander Montgomery left the game clutching his knee, which he hurt during a celebratory chest bump with a teammate.

"It's unfortunate," UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "Both firsts for me. That's the first guy I've ever had get hurt in pre-game and the first one celebrating."

Lots went right for Kentucky, though, in its win over Alabama State that snapped a five-game losing streak.

And more than anything, UK and its players just needed to feel good again.

"It's good to get that victory," Coach Mark Stoops said. "It's been awhile. So any time you get a win, you have to appreciate it. Our players have worked hard and we've been fighting and clawing and scratching trying to get a win."

Against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent facing its first Southeastern Conference foe in school history, Kentucky didn't leave much to chance early.

The Cats (2-6, 0-4 SEC) needed just two plays and 42 seconds to grab a 7-0 lead on an 88-yard touchdown run for quarterback Jalen Whitlow. It was the longest run in stadium history by a UK player or opponent.

It also had an unexpected result: easing the injured ankle and shoulder that had plagued the quarterback the past few weeks.

"It's like magic, you don't even think about it any more," he said of the touchdown that dulled his pain.

A win cured a lot of what ails UK, too.

"We were starving for this one," Whitlow said. "We hadn't had one in awhile. We needed it."

His scamper was the second-longest in Kentucky history, behind only Harry Jones' 91-yard run against George Washington in 1951. Two other players, Bernie Scruggs (1970) and Bill Ransdell (1960), also had 88-yard runs.

The Kentucky quarterback ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. He amassed 287 yards for Kentucky, including 186 yards through the air (16-for-26).

Whitlow made a little more history, becoming just the third quarterback in school history to have more than 100 yards rushing and more than 100 yards through the air.

"Jalen did some good things, battled," Brown said of his quarterback. "Sometimes he threw the ball and looked really good, down-the-field stuff, he threw the ball really well. He kind of rushed some underneath throws."

The sophomore from Montgomery, Ala., home of the Hornets, also became the first Cats QB to run for two touchdowns and pass for two more since Shane Boyd did it against Indiana in 2004.

Alabama State, which had its six-game win streak snapped and is now 0-4 versus Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, tied it 7-7 on Isaiah Crowell's 32-yard scoring run midway through the first quarter.

The former Georgia standout finished with 84 yards on 12 carries. But 62 of those came in the opening quarter.

After his score, the Cats rolled off 41 straight points to take a commanding lead.

UK's second touchdown came in a less traditional — but just as interesting — way when Demarco Robinson recovered a Raymond Sanders fumble in the end zone to make it 14-7 with three minutes to go in the first quarter.

Whitlow found Montgomery for a 6-yard touchdown pass in the left side of the end zone early in the second quarter, but it was the post-score celebration that created the most drama.

Montgomery went up to chest bump Robinson in the end zone, and the freshman receiver landed awkwardly on his left leg and fell to the ground.

Montgomery was helped off the field before being carted away with ice on his left knee. He did not return and UK offered no update on the extent of his injury.

"Hopefully, it's not serious, but I'm afraid it may be," Stoops said.

The Hornets were forced to punt on the next series from the last inch of their end zone. UK's Josh Forrest got a hand on the punt and Cody Quinn recovered it at the Alabama State 7-yard line.

It took Jojo Kemp one play to make Alabama State pay. He scored his second career touchdown and second in as many games to make it 28-7 Kentucky with 12:38 to go in the half.

Joe Mansour added a 39-yard field goal as time expired to give UK a 31-7 edge. The senior kicker added another field goal from 29 yards out early in the second half after the Kentucky defense had another big play.

Safety Ashely Lowery forced his first fumble of the season and Mister Cobble pounced on it deep in Hornets territory.

The Cats' 196 rushing yards at the half were more than they had total in each of their previous five games. They finished with 233 yards on the ground, second most this season.

Jamel Johnson grabbed a 68-yard pass from Daniel Duhart to get the Hornets (6-3, 6-1 SWAC) back on the board in the second half and make it 48-14 late in the third quarter.

The ASU offense, which came in averaging 477.8 yards a game, was held to 297.

Stoops was pleased with the win, but knows the Cats face No. 10 Missouri at home next week and they'll have to get better.

"Still have a lot of work to do," he said. "We all know that and can see that, but I was pretty pleased with their effort."

 

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

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