#1 Alabama Downs Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WCBI Sports/Alabama Athletics) – Quarterback AJ McCarron passed for a career-high 359 yards and linebacker C.J. Mosley led a suffocating performance by the Alabama defense as top-ranked Alabama (6-0 overall; 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference) smothered Kentucky (1-5 overall; 0-3 SEC) 48-7 Saturday night before a crowd of 69,873 at Commonwealth Stadium.
McCarron completed 21 of 35 pass attempts, including one touchdown, and the Alabama offense churned out 668 total yards while producing two 100-yard rushing performances and a 300-yard passer in the same game for the first time in the Crimson Tide’s illustrious football history. Running backs T.J. Yeldon (16 rushes, 124 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Kenyan Drake (14 for 106, 2 TDs) became the 16th Alabama duo to surpass the century mark in the same game. The Tide tied a school record for first downs in a game with 35, equaling the mark set against Western Carolina in 2007.
Mosley led the Alabama defense with seven tackles, and engineered a performance that held Kentucky to 170 total yards (94 rushing, 76 passing). Alabama controlled the ball for 35 minutes, 59 seconds on the night.
Alabama won the coin toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff. Christion Jones returned the kickoff for 21 yards and the Tide set up shop at its 21-yard line. T.J. Yeldon took a handoff on first down and gained a yard. On second down, McCarron completed a wide receiver screen pass to DeAndrew White, who split several defenders and gained 16 yards for a first down at the Tide 38. After an incomplete pass on first down, Yeldon took a short pass for nine yards to the Tide 47 to set
up third-and-one. Yeldon gained the first down via a three-yard run to the 50. On first down, McCarron’s pass was incomplete. On second down, Yeldon gained three on a rush. On third-and-seven, McCarron passed to a wide open Kenny Bell across the middle, but Bell couldn’t hold on and Alabama had to punt. Mandell punted 47 yards into the end zone and Kentucky set up its offense at its own 20.
After a Kentucky punt, Alabama took the next possession and marched 52 yards to the Kentucky 13 before a Kenyan Drake fumble ended the drive. The Tide defense forced another Kentucky three-and-out and Jones took the punt from the Tide 35 to the UA 48. Kentucky starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow was injured on the possession and left the game.
On first down, Yeldon ran for three yards into Kentucky territory at the 49. Then Yeldon gained nine more on a rush to the Wildcats 40. After another Yeldon rush for four yards, McCarron hit a wide open tight end O.J. Howard on a wheel route for a 25-yard gain to the UK 11. On first down, Yeldon found running room at left tackle but fumbled when hit at the UK 5. Linebacker Avery Williamson recovered for Kentucky at the one-yard line.
The Wildcats’ turned to backup quarterback Maxwell Smith, who led the Cats to a couple of first downs before the Tide defense forced another punt, which went out of bounds at the Tide 26. After an incompletion and a four-yard run by Yeldon, an illegal substitution penalty on Kentucky changed a third-and-six into a third-and-one that Yeldon converted via a short rush. On the next play, McCarron and Howard connected again, this time for 12 yards to the Tide 49. A long pass to Jones was broken up at the goal line, but the incompletion was erased by a 15-yard penalty for illegal hands to the face by Kentucky, setting up Alabama at the Wildcat 36. A six-yard run by Yeldon moved the Tide to the UK 30 as the first quarter ended.
On the first play of the second quarter, Yeldon was wide open on a pass play but dropped what surely would have been a touchdown. A pass to White gained six before McCarron hit Amari Cooper for 10 yards to the UK 14. A Yeldon rush gained four and another run by Yeldon gained two before an incompletion forced a 25-yard field goal attempt by Cade Foster. Foster’s kick was true to give the Tide a 3-0 lead with 13:08 left in the second quarter.
The Tide defense forced another Kentucky punt that Jones fielded at the Tide 27 and weaved 30 yards behind good blocking to the UK 43. On the first play, McCarron faked a handoff and threw deep to receiver Kevin Norwood who made a leaping catch in double coverage for a 42-yard gain to the UK one-yard line. On the next play, Drake took a handoff over left tackle for a touchdown. Foster’s kick gave Alabama a 10-0 lead with 9:50 left in the second quarter.
Another punt by Kentucky went out of bounds at the Tide 12 with 8:50 left in the second period. On first down, Drake took a handoff and bulled for 10 yards to a first down at the Tide 22. McCarron gained two yards when he was flushed from the pocket on an intended pass play.
Drake took a McCarron screen pass for 11 yards and a first down on a third-and-four play to the Tide 39. After an incompletion, McCarron rushed for six more after being flushed from the pocket again. On third-and-four, McCarron passed to Norwood for six yards and a first down at the UK 49. Drake gained one on a run before McCarron connected with Jones on consecutive pass plays for 10 and 14 to the UK 24. After an incompletion, Yeldon took a handoff to the left side and ran 24 yards for a touchdown. Foster’s kick gave the Tide a 17-0 lead with 3:39 left in the second quarter. The 88-yard drive took 12 plays and consumed 5:11 of game clock.
After a Kentucky punt, Alabama took over at its 30 with 2:11 left in the first half. Drake ran for 11 on first down to the Tide 41. McCarron then passed to Norwood for 13 yards to the UK 46 and a 15-yard facemask penalty moved the ball to the Wildcat 31. McCarron and Drake hooked up for 24 yards to the UK seven before an incomplete pass set up second-and-goal from there. A false start by Alabama created second-and-goal at the 12. Drake took a handoff and bulled for 11 yards to the UK one-yard line, then leaped over right guard for a one-yard touchdown behind a block by freshman guard Grant Hill. The score gave the Tide a 24-0 lead following Foster’s kick with 27 seconds left in the first half.
After forcing a Kentucky punt to start the second half, the Alabama offense powered 79 yards in four plays to a touchdown. After a dropped pass on the first play, Yeldon rushed for 34 yards to the Kentucky 45. On the next play, Cooper took a short McCarron pass and weaved for 42 yards to the Kentucky three-yard line. Yeldon took a handoff on the next play, slipped out of a tackle in the backfield, avoided another tackler, then bulled through three more defenders for a three-yard touchdown run. Foster’s kick gave Alabama a 31-0 lead with 11:38 left in the third quarter.
Kentucky’s offense put together a scoring drive of its own in response to the Tide’s score. The Cats drove 75 yards in nine plays to a score on a 30-yard pass play from Smith to Javess Blue. Joe Mansour’s kick was good and the Wildcats had narrowed the margin to 31-7 with 7:05 left in the third period.
Alabama then marched 70 yards in 12 plays to the Kentucky two-yard line before settling for a field goal. McCarron passed to Jones for nine yards. Drake rushed for eight more to the Tide 45. McCarron had a 40-yard hookup to White to the UK 15 but the play was erased by a holding penalty that moved the ball back to the Tide 35. McCarron passed to Cooper for 12, then to White again for 30 to the UK 19. After an incompletion, Drake ran for four yards to the UK 14, then took a McCarron pass for nine more to the UK five-yard line. After a Drake rush for three yards to the Wildcat two-yard line, an incompletion on third-and-goal set up Foster’s 20-yard field goal with 1:10 left in the third period.
After a punt, the Tide raced 80 yards in four plays to another touchdown. A 12-yard run by Yeldon started the four-play march, followed by a 21-yard pass from McCarron to Yeldon to the UK 47. McCarron then connected for 27 yards with DeAndrew White to the UK 20 and capped the drive with a 20-yard scoring pass to Norwood. Foster’s kick gave the Tide a 41-7 lead with 10:04 left in the game. On the drive, McCarron surpassed 300 passing yards for the game marking the first time in Alabama history that a quarterback has thrown for 300 yards in the same game in which two Tide rushers surpassed 100 yards individually on the ground.
The reserves took over for Alabama on the next possession and moved to another touchdown, going 57 yards in 12 plays. Reserve running back Altee Tenpenny rushed five times for 21 yards on the drive, scoring on a seven-yard run for a touchdown. That gave the Tide a 48-7 lead after Foster’s kick with 1:41 remaining.