LEXINGTON — The Kentucky Wildcats got off the mat for a 48-14 win over the Alabama State Hornets Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium in a performance that was frequently rough around the edges.
Kentucky improved to 2-6 in winning for just the first time since Sept. 5. Alabama State, 6-3, lost for the first time in six weeks.
“It’s a good win ... it’s good to get this victory,” UK coach Mark Stoops said. “It’s been awhile. We desperately needed a win, and we got one.”
Saturday’s game included a lot of strange plays, as if the spirit of Halloween hung in the air.
1. Junior Javess Blue, the Wildcats’ leading wide receiver, suffered an eye injury in pre-game warm-ups and did not play in the game.
“He took a ball in the eye in pre-game warm-up, and it closed up on him,” Stoops said.
“Then his other eye closed up when I popped him in that one,” Stoops said with a wry smile.
2. Senior Raymond Sanders and freshman Ryan Timmons were back deep for UK for the opening kickoff. That kick sailed down the middle of the field, but tilted slightly to Timmons’ side. But neither Timmons nor Sanders went to catch the ball, which went over their heads and fell at the 3-yard-line. Timmons picked it up and got back to UK’s 6-yard-line, before he was buried by a slew of Hornets.
Quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw to Timmons for a 6-yard gain on first down, and then Whitlow ran 88 yards for a touchdown on second down to put the Wildcats up 7-0.
UK officials said that was the longest run from scrimmage in the history of Commonwealth Stadium.
It was a tough night for Timmons, a Franklin County High graduate. He appeared to ding a shoulder late in the first quarter and did not return until late in the second quarter. Then, with 5:44 left in the third quarter, Timmons went to the turf after an incomplete pass, was down for a minute or so, and then walked off largely under his own power.
“He’s beat up,” Stoops said of Timmons. “That was going to be the last couple plays he was going to be in the game, too. And we just had him in there to get his confidence going and get him ready for next week, and the ball (Whitlow’s pass) was behind him, and he just got a freak twist of the ankle.
“He had a shoulder earlier in the game and then he had an ankle there. I don’t believe the shoulder should be anything too serious, and we’ll see where the ankle injury goes.”
Timmons finished with two catches for 17 yards before leaving.
3. On the first play of the second quarter, Whitlow tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Alex Montgomery, putting Kentucky up 21-7 after the third extra point by Joe Mansour.
Montgomery was thrilled with the good fortune and went up to chest bump teammate Demarco Robinson. Montgomery came down awkwardly, laid on the field for several minutes, and then was helped off with a left knee injury that did not look good. He did not return to the game.
“That was really disappointing with Alex,” Stoops said. “We’re hoping it’s not serious, but I’m afraid it may be.”
4. With the score tied 7-7 after Alabama State running back Isaiah Crowell raced 32 yards untouched for a score, UK came right back and went up 14-7 when Sanders fumbled into the Alabama State end zone and Robinson recovered for the score.
That Kentucky score was set up by a nice 35-yard kickoff return by Timmons.
Still, despite all this strange action two days after Halloween, Kentucky had this game put away by the early stages of the second quarter, after sophomore linebacker Josh Forrest blocked an Alabama State punt and Jojo Kemp ended up scoring from 7 yards out for the Wildcats for a 28-7 lead.
Kentucky pushed it to 31-7 with a 39-yard field goal by Mansour on the last play of the first half.
The Wildcats methodically extended the lead throughout the second half in front of a crowd announced as 59,797.
UK went up 34-7 on its first possession of the third quarter when Mansour was good on a field goal from 29 yards.
It went to 41-7 midway through the third period on a 2-yard plunge by Whitlow, and another point-after by Mansour. And late in the quarter, tight end Steve Borden gathered in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Whitlow to extend it to 48-7.
Whitlow completed 16 of 26 passes for 186 yards and no interceptions. He also rushed 10 times for 101 yards. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for two others before exiting the game early in the fourth quarter in a game that lasted so long, cows were seen coming home.
Maxwell Smith came on in relief at quarterback for the Wildcats and finished out the game.
The Hornets scored their second and last touchdown when receiver Jamel Johnson got behind the Kentucky defense and gathered in a 68-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Daniel Duhart late in the third quarter.
Kemp added 67 yards rushing on 13 tries for Kentucky.
Jeff Badet and Robinson caught four passes each to lead the Wildcats’ wide receivers.
The UK defense played reasonably well. Alabama State mustered 297 yards of offense, but rarely sustained much.
The Wildcats rolled up 422 yards of total offense — 189 through the air and 233 on the ground — though Stoops indicated his team left some yards and points on the field.
“We’re still not executing like we should, and that’s frustrating,” Stoops said.
The Wildcats remain at home Saturday to take on Missouri with a noon kickoff.
To see photos from this game, click here.