Entering Saturday’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, we knew the Wildcats were faced with an almost impossible task. Down ten players, including Chris Rodriguez and Jamin Davis, keeping up with the top-ranked Crimson Tide was a big ask. Despite the circumstances, Kentucky played well enough to leave fans feeling deflated after a 63-3 loss, the largest margin of defeat since Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators ran up a 65-0 victory in The Swamp in 1996.
The Wildcats actually out-gained Alabama for more than a quarter and controlled the clock. UK had three scoring opportunities that could have given them the lead, but only recorded three points in those drives, leaving the door open for Alabama to beat in the Wildcats’ brains.
Many questions will be asked in the coming days, like, “How do you lose a game by 60 points eight years into a coaching tenure?” and, “Is it even possible to bounce back from a loss like this?” Until we are forced to face the noise, let’s look at the parts of the night that were okay and the other times that were crimes against the game of football.
GOOD: Kentucky Moved the Ball in the First Quarter
Kentucky’s first offensive play was a first down. Kentucky opened the second drive with a 13-yard reception to Keaton Upshaw, the first of three receptions by the tight end that went for more than ten yards. Josh Ali sprung a big gain on a pitch pass and the Wildcats actually had receivers running free, wide open down the field against Alabama. Kentucky’s offense was humming, out-gaining the Crimson Tide 121-79 in the first quarter.
BAD: Red Zone Mistakes
After punting the ball away to start the game, the Wildcats got the ball inside the 10-yard line on the next two possessions. A first and goal play from the two-yard line was taken away by a cheap holding penalty on Landon Young. The Wildcats were forced to settle for a field goal.
On the following possession, Alabama called a timeout to reevaluate its defense on third and goal from the Crimson Tide’s 7-yard line. Eddie Gran gave Terry Wilson the option to pass it or run. The coverage dictated the latter. Alabama collapsed on the quarterback draw, eliminating a chance for Kentucky to take the lead.
At least the Cats could cut the 7-3 deficit to one with a field goal, right? Wrong. Longsnapper Cade Degraw showed off his forearm muscles by launching a ball into outer space, a mistake similar to the one he made against Mississippi State that resulted in a safety.
The hardest snap in the history of snaps
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 21, 2020
All hope was not lost a possession later when UK got the ball inside the Alabama 30-yard line. When forced to settle for a field goal, another shaky snap and hold led to a missed 42-yard field goal. In three scoring opportunities Kentucky only scored three points. Woof.
GREAT: Another Bossman Fat Interception
Despite trailing 28-7, Kentucky’s defense did not quit when they came out of the halftime locker room. Kelvin “Bossman Fat” Joseph showed us why he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the country by playing phenomenal coverage downfield to pick off a pass at the goal line, just the third Mac Jones interception of the season.
Tom Hart screamed, “You know the vibe!” as Bossman Fat sprinted down the field. He moves into a tie for the most interceptions in the country with four.
UK’s defensive success didn’t end there. They forced a three and out on the ensuing series, giving Kentucky a shred of hope, until…
UGLY: A Terry Wilson Pick Six
Every time Kentucky called slants, you could feel the agony in Jordan Rogers’ voice. The simple passing concept could be read from a mile away. When Terry Wilson stared down his target for the umpteenth time, the Crimson Tide finally took advantage.
This was @AlabamaFTBL's 79th non-offensive TD under Saban (since 2007).
No team has more over that time. pic.twitter.com/n6wSYztPAe
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 21, 2020
Kentucky’s offense was infuriating. It was inventive in the first half with motions used to confuse the defense and free up open receivers. In the second half it was as bland as a stale vanilla wafer.
One would naturally expect Alabama’s talented defense to get better with time, especially after a long layover. What happened tonight was inexcusable. Kentucky went from out-gaining Alabama in the first 20 minutes to running only 20 second half plays for one single first down. The offensive inconsistency throughout this season is baffling.
HUH? The Penalties
Would a few calls here and there made a significant difference in a 60-point loss? Maybe just a smidge.
An early review on a Kavosiey Smoke reception moved the ball back from the five to the Alabama 10-yard line, where a play later a questionable hold stalled Kentucky’s progress. DeMarcus Harris helped Kentucky get back into the red zone by drawing a pass interference penalty. The defender not only arrived early, he made helmet-to-helmet contact with Harris, dislodging his helmet. The concussed wide receiver did not return for the rest of the night. The same could not be said about the Alabama defender because targeting was not called. Oh, and this was not a facemask.
— Max Godby (@OhMyGodby64) November 21, 2020
EMBARRASSING: 12 Can’t Stop Harris
In addition to the missed calls, Kentucky was not its usually well-disciplined self. Kentucky committed seven penalties for 69 yards, many of which were of the silly pre-snap variety. In one instance Kentucky’s defense put 12 men on the field. Even with the extra player they could not stop running back Najee Harris from sprinting 42 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. You’ll see the stiff-arm near the end of the run during next year’s NFL Draft.
BRUH: You call that dancing?
“This game’s gotta be almost over,” I thought to myself before I looked at the play clock and saw that there were still SEVEN MINUTES left in the third quarter. All three UK quarterbacks played multiple series and future Alabama star Bryce Young threw his first career touchdown pass. A game that slowed to a crawl as the blowout neared an end, one Alabama offensive lineman had to create his own form of entertainment.
Alabama center Landon Dickerson does a little dance. pic.twitter.com/uL9ZHULlwi
— Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) November 22, 2020
CONFUSING: What to make of this loss
This game was not on Kentucky’s schedule in the spring. Extraordinary circumstances led to a loss many wished they could forget.
The pandemic forced the SEC to rearrange opponents, giving UK a road trip with the top-ranked team in America. Less than ten days before the two were set to tango, the Wildcats’ lost a beloved member of their family, John Schlarman. Before they hopped on the plane to reach Tuscaloosa, positive COVID-19 tests sidelined stars.
Losing by 60 points is infuriating, but so is not seeing your family on Thanksgiving. This year has been a challenge for all. It’s not an excuse, it’s the reality in which we live. Some might see the devastating defeat as cracks in the foundation of the program Stoops built. Others are probably prepared to leave this game in the past and move on to the next one. Make of this loss what you will, the Wildcats’ season will not be defined by it.