In the last six years, Kentucky has now faced four teams that were ranked number one in the country. And to me, this Alabama squad is clearly the best of those four. When the Cats upset #1 LSU in 2007, you had a senior quarterback throwing to three future NFL players. And there were several guys on the defensive side who were just a year or two away from playing in the league. Those are the kinds of players Mark Stoops and company are recruiting, so the talent disparity won’t be so great in future matchups against top-ranked teams.
Kentucky is beat up physically right now and probably mentally as well. It has faced three of the four best defensive units in the nation in the past four games (Louisville, Florida, Alabama) so what they’ll see in the second half of the season will be a sense of relief for a struggling offense. When the caliber of defense was at least slightly lower last week, the Cats showed promise behind Jalen Whitlow (hopefully he can get healthy soon.).
UK players need to keep the faith. But it’s always easier to do that when one has a little success to buoy the confidence. That’s been hard to come by in this four-game stretch so this open date could not come at a better time for this team. .
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It was Christian Jones’ 21-yard punt return early in the second quarter. Punting from its own 36, Kentucky could have put the Tide 76 yards from the end zone by hitting the net punt goal of 40 yards. But the punt was short and then Jones made a smart play in running up to field it in a crowd, rather than letting it land and roll. With the run back, the punt netted only seven yards of field position and Bama treated it like a turnover, with a play-action bomb on first down. That play went for a 42-yard gain (should have been picked off by Ashley Lowrey) and set up a one-yard TD run to make it 10-0.
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KEY CAT STATS
–Big plays. Alabama hit the UK defense for nine plays covering 20 yards or more, six of them in the second half. Kentucky had one–the 30-yard TD pass to Javess Blue.
–Third-down conversions. UK was 2-for-12, with both successful plays coming late in the game. Alabama was 10 of 14 and was able to get a fourth-down conversion after one of the misses. Maxwell Smith went to the air on six of those 12 missed third-down plays and had only one completion–an 11-yard gain on third-and-21. Whitlow passed on both of his third-down plays, with an incompletion and a sack which led to his injury. This offense will continue to struggle until the Cats can get more consistent play at the QB spot.
–7.8 and 7.6. Those were the respective yards-per-carry average for Bama tailbacks T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Some say the Tide had one of college football’s all-time best offensive lines last season and this one looked overpowering in this matchup–also keeping the QB’s sack-free.
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“WILDCAT PAW” HELMET STICKERS
Raymond Sanders. He averaged 5.1 per carry on 14 rushes and had only one run for a loss. Most impressive for Sanders were the yards he gained in this game after the first hit by a Bama defender.
Eric Dixon. After missing that late tackle at South Carolina last week, Davis responded with a tremendous effort. He was the second-leading tackler for UK with nine and he led in solo’s with seven. And it was Dixon who forced Alabama’s second fumble. Overall, it was just the passion with which he played the game that stood out.
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