Sidelines with John Clay

Jalen Hurts, UK’s defense and more from Mark Stoops’ press conference

Alabama is led by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has added a run threat to the position for the Crimson Tide. Kentucky plays at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
Alabama is led by true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has added a run threat to the position for the Crimson Tide. Kentucky plays at No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. Associated Press

A few things from Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops’ press conference Monday previewing Saturday’s game at No. 1-ranked Alabama:

1. Getting under the skin of the defense

After Wednesday’s practice, Stoops publicly voiced his displeasure and frustration with the way his team was preparing for South Carolina. Some thought the coach was throwing his players under the bus. I thought the opposite. To me, it was good to see Stoops tell what he really thought what was happening on that side of the ball.

Often, Stoops wraps up the week by saying his team has prepared well only to have them not play so well on Saturday. The way his defense had performed the first three games, you knew the coach was unhappy and frustrated. I liked that he admitted that. And I think his defense responded to that approach.

2. Yes, Alabama is very good

Alabama is the defending national champions. Alabama is ranked No. 1 this season. Alabama has the best coach in college football, maybe the greatest college football coach of all time in Nick Saban. Anything else?

“We’ve got a very tall task, as you know, playing an amazing football team and an amazing program,” Stoops said Monday. “The No. 1 team in the country for a good reason.”

Bama does have one new wrinkle this year. Saban has typically had pocket passers at Alabama -- Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Jacob Coker, etc. The Tide’s starter this year, true freshman Jalen Hurts, adds a running dimension to the position.

The Texas native has completed 64 of 102 passes (62.7) percent for 727 yards and five touchdowns and one interception. He’s also second on the team in rushing behind Damien Harris with 251 yards on 45 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. In the 48-43 win at Ole Miss, Hurts rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries.

“The quarterback is different and they’re doing it different ways out of the gun,” Stoops said. “They put a lot of pressure on you.”

3. Kentucky in the NCAA stats

Kentucky is still last in the SEC in total defense but it did improve from No. 122 in total defense to No. 109 in the NCAA statistical rankings after the win over South Carolina. The Cats also improved from 127th to 121st in third-down defense at a 50.8 percent conversion rate.

Here’s the rest of where UK stands in the NCAA statistical rankings.

Kentucky football in NCAA statistical rankings

Category

Rank

Average

Scoring offense

68

30.3

Total offense

78

400.3

Rushing offense

47

196.8

Pass efficiency offense

26

155.5

Third down offense

89

36.4

Scoring defense

109

35.3

Total defense

109

463.0

Rushing defense

98

205.0

Pass efficiency defense

94

138.7

Third down defense

121

50.8

Turnover margin

123

-1.5

Net punting

56

38.2

Kickoff returns

38

23.9

Kickoff return defense

14

16.8

Sacks

71

2.0

Sacks allowed

112

3.3

Penalties

60

54.2

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