UK Football

Tide packs imposing offensive punch

Florida's offense and Alabama's offense are vastly different but equally devastating.

The Gators, who pounded Kentucky 41-7 last week, like to spread out opponents and put the ball in quarterback Tim Tebow's hands. They then use their speed on the perimeter and/or cross up teams with misdirection plays.

Alabama uses more of a conventional, pro-style attack that comes right at opponents with a physical, smashmouth running game and some play-action passing.

The Crimson Tide's system might not be as flashy or pretty as the Gators', but the results have been just as impressive. The Crimson Tide bludgeoned a good Virginia Tech defense for 268 yards on the ground in a 34-24 season-opening win.

"You know what Alabama's going to do," Kentucky defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "They're going to come straight ahead and run the football right at you. If you stop the run, you have a chance. If you don't, it will be a long day. They'll just keep pounding the rock. No one likes it when a team easily runs on you up the middle and all over the place because then they can pass on you whenever they want. You have to make them one-dimensional."

Alabama showed last week that it's far from one-dimensional. Arkansas loaded up to stop the running game and was fairly successful, limiting the Crimson Tide to 134 yards on 41 carries, an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. However, quarterback Greg McElroy continued his solid play in his first year as a starter, hitting on 17 of his 24 pass attempts for 291 yards and three touchdowns.

McElroy also has done a good job of spreading the ball around. Sophomore Julio Jones was a pre-season All-Southeastern Conference choice and appeared on many All-America lists, and he's tied for fifth on the team in receiving with seven catches for 120 yards. His 50-yarder against Arkansas was his first TD catch of the year.

"They've got guys who can catch out of the backfield, they run screens, they do a really good job of spreading the ball around so you can't really focus on a particular player," Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks said. "But if you don't focus on Jones you're kind of crazy because he can gash you with his size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and talent."

There will be a lot of hype surrounding the matchup between Jones and UK cornerback Trevard Lindley. Jones caught three passes for 52 yards in Alabama's 17-14 win over the Cats last year.

"He's a big, physical receiver, probably the biggest receiver I'll face all year," Lindley said. "I'll be excited (about the matchup). I'll just try and go out there, do my best and come out on top."

Alabama moved the ball up and down the field on Kentucky last year, running for 282 yards. But three turnovers and a pair of missed field goals kept UK in the game. It wasn't until a late onside kick went awry that the Tide escaped.

UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown was satisfied with his team's effort other than one play: a 78-yard touchdown run by Glen Coffee, which was the only touchdown the defense gave up.

Brown said three things went wrong on that play that allowed Coffee to break free: Defensive tackle Corey Peters was held, linebacker Sam Maxwell went underneath a block, and safety Marcus McClinton missed a tackle.

"We had a chance to win that game last year," Brown said. "That one play really made the difference. This year, we have to be solid and not give up that one big play because, if a guy gets held, or a guy doesn't take the right step, they have a chance to break it."

The Cats had trouble tackling last week against Florida and, if they don't wrap up this week, the Tide could take a couple more long ones to the house.

"To win most games, you always have to tackle well," Brooks said. "Having said that, we're going to miss some tackles because these backs don't always go down with the first tackle. The key is, if you miss one, there's somebody else right there swarming to make up for it."

Coffee is now with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, but Alabama still has a pair of big-play backs in sophomore Mark Ingram and freshman Trent Richardson. Both Ingram (347 yards) and Richardson (280 yards) have scored four touchdowns this season, and Richardson is averaging an impressive 7.4 yards a carry. The Tide also has a pair of experienced backs in senior Roy Upchurch (107 yards, 9.7 yards per carry) and junior Terry Grant (166 yards, three touchdowns).

"Those guys are flying," Brown said of the Alabama tailbacks. "Literally flying and, when they tumble, they fall for another 10-15 yards because they're going so fast. They are aggressive, they are downhill runners, and they are very talented. They've got guys who can make plays. They say, 'We're going to run and hit you in the mouth. What are you going to do about it?' "

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