UK Football

Blue Review: Instant analysis from Kentucky football’s loss at Alabama

Instant analysis from Kentucky’s 34-6 loss to Alabama (gleaned from the ESPN telecast of the game):

How the game was won

With Kentucky up 3-0 and threatening for more, Alabama snuffed out a UK scoring opportunity in the first half by forcing a Stephen Johnson fumble. The Crimson Tide scored a TD by turning a second Johnson fumble into a 55-yard scoop-and-score touchdown by Ronnie Harrison that put the Tide ahead 17-3 and ended any realistic Kentucky upset hopes.

Getting game balls

1. Alabama defense. Dominated UK in the trenches, harassed Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson in the backfield and kept the Cats out of the end zone.

2. Calvin Ridley. Any thoughts that the ballyhooed Alabama wide receiver was having a so-so 2016 were belied by his domination (11 catches for 174 yards and two TDs) of the Kentucky secondary. He outgained UK (161 yards total offense) by himself.

3. Nick Saban. Ronnie Harrison’s 55-yard scoop and score following a Stephen Johnson fumble was the seventh non-offensive touchdown for Alabama this season and the 53rd since Saban became Crimson Tide head coach in 2007.

That is the mark of a well-coached football team.

4. Grant McKinniss. It’s generally not a good sign when your punter is your star, but the UK true freshman came through with a strong showing (averaged almost 45 yards on 6 punts with long of 61) in a tough house.

5. Kentucky fight. Unlike the no-show, blowout loss at Florida, UK at least played with effort and some grit at Bama.

Running gassers

1. Stephen Johnson. In a game where UK had no margin for error, the junior quarterback killed one Kentucky scoring chance with a fumble and saw Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison scoot 55 yards for a TD with his second lost fumble.

Of course, “at Alabama” is a rugged assignment for one’s first road start as an FBS quarterback.

2. Kentucky offense. Had some chances to make big plays early and did not take advantage of opportunities.

3. Damien Harris. The ankle he sprained against Kent State last week kept the ex-Madison Southern star from being the factor for Alabama (two carries, 11 yards; one catch for 6 yards) against his home-state school that he otherwise might have been.

Key number(s)

0-22-1. Kentucky has still never beaten the Crimson Tide in the state of Alabama. UK is now 0-10 in Tuscaloosa, 0-8-1 in Birmingham and 0-4 in Montgomery vs. the Tide.

Fashion police

For its fifth game, Kentucky wore white helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numerals and blue pants.

Who is next

Kentucky (2-3, 1-2 SEC) will face Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Commonwealth Stadium. The Commodores lost to Florida 13-6 Saturday in Nashville.

Know your foe

1. Vanderbilt has beaten Kentucky in four of the last five meetings. A year ago, Kentucky lost in Nashville in an excruciating manner. UK failed to get points on both a 1st-and-goal from the Commodores’ 1-yard line and a 1st-and-goal from the 4. The Cats also gave up a touchdown on a “hidden end” trick play by Vandy. Topping things off, Kentucky threw a pick-six and had a punt blocked. The 21-17 loss in what was an eminently winnable game prevented UK from becoming bowl-eligible.

2. Former Trinity High School standout Ryan White, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound, junior strong safety, has 27 tackles, including 1 tackle for loss, 2 pass breakups and 1 pass defended.

3. Going into the Florida game, Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb was the second-leading rusher (118 yards a game) in the SEC. The 5-foot-10, 202-pound redshirt junior from Gainesville, Fla., ran for 110 yards on 24 carries against his hometown team in Vandy’s 13-6 loss to the Gators.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader