Since UK stunned Alabama in 1997, one of the biggest wins of the Hal Mumme era and in UK history, the Cats and Crimson Tide have played a total of six times. And while UK will be huge underdogs this weekend and likely in every contest from 1997 to present, we actually haven’t done all that bad against ‘Bama, especially when you compare it to other SEC teams over the last 20 years — looking at you Tennessee. Yes, UK is 0-6 since that 1997 win but it hasn’t all been blowouts and embarrassments. A look back:
2003: Alabama 27, Kentucky 17 (Tuscaloosa)
Let’s be fair about this game. That was a 4-9 Alabama team. It wasn’t Nick Saban’s program yet. But Alabama had just lost by 7 on the road against #1 Oklahoma, so they weren’t the worst group in the world either. And UK was competitive through 3 quarters until 2 Bama touchdowns put the game out of reach. Jared Lorenzen played solidly but UK had no rushing attack and Rich Brooks’ first team fell by 10.
2004: Alabama 45, Kentucky 17 (Lexington)
The score a little misleading here. This was a 3-point game late in the 3rd quarter. But ‘Bama finished the game on a 28-7 run to finish off the blowout. That was a really bad UK team too as UK was starting to really feel the effects on probation. For the game, UK had just 177 yards of total offense. UK quarterbacks were a combined 7-18 throwing the ball.
2008: #2 Alabama 17, Kentucky 14 (Tuscaloosa)
The Saban Era was in full force at this point and yet one of the Cats best defense in school history nearly pulled off the historic upset. What was there to remember from this game? Well, it was a rare appearance for the Cats on CBS. Remember too, that UK team was 4-0 headed into that game and had given up just 22 points in those first 4 games. With a little better offensive performance, the win was there to be had. That Alabama team finished 12-2.
2009: #3 Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Lexington)
Of all the games on this list, this was one of the least competitive games. But that Alabama team would go on to win the national title so a lot of teams could say that in 2009. Alabama led 21-6 at halftime and 31-6 in the 3rd quarter before a couple late UK TDs made the score respectable. UK was -4 in the turnover department, a sign of doom against Alabama.
2013: #1 Alabama 48, Kentucky 7 (Lexington)
I would argue this was the worst UK team of my lifetime, so this was an inevitable result. While there were competitive areas in each of the games above and below, there wasn’t really an area where UK was competitive in this game.
2016: #1 Alabama 34, Kentucky 6 (Tuscaloosa)
UK actually led in this game. And it was tied after 1 quarter. But a 2nd quarter defensive touchdown for Bama ruined UK’s upset bid and it was a predictable result after that. But I remember this game very well. UK was quite competitive all game but couldn’t quite put the drives together for points. That was a point in the Stoops era that raised my eyebrows to UK making progress. Just look at the score and you don’t see that. But you could see there was something good happening even if that result.
I think at this point in the Stoops era, I don’t really want to look at a 24 or 28 point loss and figure out the positives. I think Kentucky should be competitive in this game. Not win it. Not lead it at halftime. But simply not be dominated. We have a senior quarterback. Talent in the backfield. Talent on the defensive end. And it’s time we don’t accept automatic losses as certainty. For some strange reason, UK has been weirdly competitive with Alabama over the years. Not beating them. But competing with them. I hope that isn’t any different on Saturday.