Looking back at this game, and what people are saying about it, there are a few surprises. Early reports primarily looking at the score saw this as the Tide coming in and crushing a hapless Wildcat team pretty much like Florida did, but just allowing a few more points.
But more detailed looks, and even (rather surprisingly) the comments from the Alabama coaching staff paint a slightly different picture. But in the end, we have to look at it for what it is -- a loss at home. Granted, this was a loss against the third (and maybe the first) best team in the country, but moral victories are for people who don't care about a sport. Yes, Kentucky is a basketball school, but we do care about football. We don't care about football like Alabama or Auburn or Florida, but we really do expect to compete in every game, and have a chance to win.
Kentucky actually came close to meeting that low bar yesterday, but were victimized by a bit of a freak play that got Alabama a touchdown late in the first half that made it difficult for Kentucky fans to have hope. A 14-6 hole is one thing, but a 21-6 hole against a defense like the Tide is a spirit-crushing deficit.
In spite of that, UK did some good things. Led by Derrick Locke, the Wildcats gashed the Tide defense for an impressive amount of yardage, and without all those turnovers, it is entirely possible that Kentucky could have taken the Tide to the wire. But the turnovers can't be wished away like that, and they were brutal, resulting almost in the margin of victory.
So in the end, Kentucky is left angry and unhappy once again, and the fact that we moved the ball well on one of the most highly-ranked defenses in the land is lost among the recriminations of foolish turnovers and squandered opportunities. It is the nature of fans to see more negative than positive in losses, and I think that's right -- after all, we expect and want victories, even in unlikely scenarios like yesterday.
But we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that Kentucky's offense, if you can somehow eliminate the turnovers, looked quite competent, even if Mike Hartline didn't. I think that is largely due to the fact that unlike the Florida game, the Kentucky coaching braintrust had a solid gameplan coming into this game and stuck to it, even when the going got tough. The result was the second-highest point total against the Tide defense this year, and enough respect from Saban (depending on what you want to believe) that he felt running a late punt fake and taking a shot at the end zone was necessary.
So here is the Alabama game in the rear-view mirror. The Gamecocks loom in Columbia:
20/20 Hindsight: Alabama vs Kentucky - Roll 'Bama Roll
20/20 Hindsight: A look at what the boys of the press are saying in the wake of the Alabama/Kentucky game.
Daily Independent (Ashland, KY) - Cats can't hang with big boys
The Wildcats won’t give up, but they won’t live up either, not if Kentucky fans are expecting a win like the school experienced two seasons ago, when it upset No. 1 LSU, or a better bowl game than the Independence Bowl or Liberty Bowl for that matter.
The SEC is just too tough.
* Sigh * This has the unfortunate ring of truth.
'It's a win,' though it was anything but commanding - al.com
Saturday's game was essentially a statistical toss-up. Kentucky tallied more first downs and passing yards, but the Wildcats (2-2, 0-2 SEC) couldn't recover from a 107-second stretch that spanned into both halves and featured two turnovers and 21 points for the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0).
Hope springs eternal.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Saturday's game was "the most physical, toughest game we've had to this point." While Virginia Tech fans may beg to differ, many of the numbers bear him out.
WILDCATS PAY PRICE FOR WIDE-OPEN PEEK - al.com
Two times, Alabama tight end Colin Peek was so wide open it was as if the Kentucky defense was afraid he had swine flu.
Kentucky needs to work on the zone defense. It's was clear that we don't play it much, but injuries forced us into it a lot yesterday, and Peek took advantage.
Tide does enough to take down ’Cats | TideSports.com | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL
"That was really a tough game," Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said.
"(Kentucky) was physical, probably the most physical team we’ve played. They ran the ball pretty well against us, better than teams usually do, and we had to overcome some adversity."
Hartline knows it's time to respond | KentuckySports.com
"The thing about quarterback is, you have four or five bad plays and you played terrible," Phillips said. "For the most part, he played good. But it's those four or five plays your quarterback is judged on."
Exactly right. SEC quarterbacks cannot afford four or five bad plays against top competition. You get maybe two or three, and the difference is the difference between W and L.
Notes: Seiber goes long to set UK scoring record | KentuckySports.com
Not only did senior place-kicker Lones Seiber break the Kentucky career scoring record Saturday, but he did it in style.
Seiber has been much-maligned at UK, but he is off to a good start this year. Congrats to him for the record, and he earned that record the hard way.
Turnovers doom UK in 38-20 loss to Alabama | KentuckySports.com
"We managed to turn a pretty good football game into a terrible football game in a matter of six minutes," UK head coach for offense Joker Phillips said.
No wonder they call him "Joker," he's a master of the obvious.
UK receivers not catching on | KentuckySports.com
But UK was done in largely by four mistakes — three interceptions and a fumble after a pass reception that was returned for a touchdown — in its passing game.
Story goes on to question the receivers, and I think he is right to do so. Hartline doesn't get off, but he is getting help in underachieving. Which begs other questions... like why?
One bad play rains on Locke's big day | KentuckySports.com
"They played with a lot of toughness," Saban said of Kentucky. "They ran the ball on us as well as anybody probably has for a while, and I think they deserve a lot of credit."
I think Saban is right. This Kentucky team is tough physically, but mentally they are wanting.
Melick: Alabama avoids being bitten by 'Cats in sandwich game | X's and Uh-oh's - al.com
"It's all about being patient," said Ingram, who finished the game with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns. "Our coaches are going to find the adjustments to be successful. It's all about being patient and not getting frustrated."
Another Alabama romp
Things got a little edgy late. The Crimson Tide was trying to milk the clock late in the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead when Kentucky started to call timeouts.
Oh, so the punt fake and shot at the end zone was in response to UK trying to save time to run another series? Really? With an 18 point lead? Please.