LEXINGTON –- The Kentucky Wildcats played a bad football game Saturday night against an Alabama team that is far and away the best team in college football, and the result was a 48-7 win by the Crimson Tide that was not as close as that score indicates.
Alabama rolled up and down the field, piling up an eye-popping 668 yards of total offense, while limiting the Wildcats to just 170 yards.
The run-pass breakdown reflects the dazzling versatility of Alabama. Senior quarterback AJ McCarron completed 21 of 35 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown, and that doesn’t reflect how well McCarron threw the football. His receivers dropped at least a half dozen passes that were right on the hands.
Still, five Alabama players caught at least three passes, led by Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White with four receptions each.
“AJ had a really good game,’’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We made a lot of plays. We made a lot of explosive plays.”
The Crimson Tide had 299 yards rushing, led by a pair of fantastic sophomore backs in T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Yeldon gained 124 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns, and
Drake added 106 yards on 14 tries, with another two touchdowns.
“We have a pretty good group of receivers, and we have a couple of pretty good running backs, so we want to involve as many of those players as we possibly can,” Saban said.
Senior linebacker C.J. Mosley had seven tackles to lead an Alabama defense that played like it had 20 guys on the field to Kentucky’s 11.
Alabama improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC, while Kentucky fell to 1-5 and 0-3.
It was a breathtaking performance by the defending national champs against a Kentucky bunch that looked like it hit a wall, mentally and physically, playing its fourth consecutive game against a top 20 opponent.
“They are a big, physical team that plays with great technique and is extremely well coached and very multiple,” UK coach Mark Stoops said of Alabama. “You put all that together, and it’s a tough night. Even though we got a couple of turnovers early, we were still behind the eight ball most of the night and it was an uphill climb. They put you in all kind of predicaments that had us off balance most of the night. They do that to a lot of people.”
It didn’t help the Kentucky offense when starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow had to leave the game early with a severe ankle sprain, though the presence of backup QB Maxwell Smith didn’t come close to effecting the outcome ... maybe just the margin by a few points.
Smith was 7 of 16 passing for 76 yards and one touchdown. The TD came on a 30-yard pass to juco transfer Javess Blue late in the third quarter that closed the gap to 31-7.
Kentucky’s running game didn’t do much to take the pressure off the Wildcats’ quarterbacks. Senior back Raymond Sanders gained 72 yards on 14 carries, but he was the only UK rusher to get anything done.
Alabama dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Defensively, senior linebacker Avery Williamson led Kentucky with 13 tackles, and junior safety Eric Dixon added 10. Those numbers are inflated a bit because there were so many tackles to be had. Alabama ran 80 plays from scrimmage, dominating time of possession, 35:59 to 24.01.
“It was a disappointing night,” Stoops said. “I thought we’d compete a little harder than that, but give credit to them. That’s the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason.”
Stoops said Whitlow was far from the only Kentucky player to get banged up over the course of this long night.
“I thought it was going to be tough to begin with, and then to be out there a bunch of plays and get banged up, it was a tough night,” he said.
The Wildcats forced two Crimson Tide fumbles early in the game - both when Alabama was in the red zone — but the home team couldn’t do anything with those gifts.
“We were hanging on,” Stoops said. “I felt like we were behind from the beginning.”
Freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons had his first subpar game of the season. Timmons caught one pass for no gain and dropped a couple other balls thrown his way. He did not run the ball from scrimmage.
Timmons’ most critical drop came late in the second quarter after Alabama had taken a 17-0 lead. On a third-and-6 play from the UK 29, Smith hit Timmons with a pass on a crossing route, but Timmons couldn’t hang on to the ball.
“That hurt us quite a bit,” Stoops said of the play. “They go down and score again right before the half. We needed to be off the field. We needed to convert. It’s tough enough.
“Those are the things that I talk about. The things we can control, the things we can execute ... we have to do those things against a quality football team. I didn’t feel like we gave ourselves much of a chance to win at any point, but certainly we could execute and do some things better.”
Asked if any of his players appeared up to the challenge, Stoops replied: “It’s hard for me to say right now. I was disappointed in our overall effort.”
But, it IS just one game, and it was Kentucky’s first poor showing since the season opening loss to Western Kentucky Aug. 31.
The Wildcats get a much-needed break now to lick their wounds, both literally and figuratively. Kentucky does not play again until an Oct. 24 contest at Mississippi State. A Nov. 2 non-conference home tilt with Alabama State follows as Kentucky’s season moves into a much more manageable phase.
Missouri, minus standout quarterback James Franklin, follows Nov. 9 in Lexington, and then road games at disappointing Vandy and banged-up Georgia follow, along with the season-ender Nov. 30 vs. Tennessee, also in Lexington.
To see a photo gallery from this game, click here.