Riding in on a 2-game win streak, the Kentucky Wildcats walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium as 37.5 underdogs. Though the Wildcats kept the game tied 3-3 in the first quarter, they then quickly fell behind and lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide 34-6.
With what turned out to be a gritty and competitive first quarter, Alabama turned the ball over on downs to conclude the game’s first drive. At the Kentucky 36-yard line, Alabama elected to run a pass play on 4th-down & 7 that was ruled incomplete.
Starting their first drive of the game with great field position, the Wildcats ran an 8 play, 36-yard drive for an Austin MacGinnis field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. The Crimson Tide then fumbled 7 plays into the following drive, but then received the same favor from the Wildcats and capitalized with a field goal of their own.
Going into the second quarter, the score at 3-all, the defensive battle continued with consecutive punts. Alabama, lead by head coach Nick Saban, then took the lid off and outscored Kentucky 14-0 in the second quarter, taking a 17-3 half-time lead.
The Wildcats received the second half kickoff, but were forced to punt just four plays into their drive. Alabama then scored a touchdown for the next two drives, while Kentucky was forced to punt following each of the scores.
After holding Alabama to a field goal, Kentucky kicked one as well and the score was 34-6. Alabama then ran out the clock for their fifth win on the season.
Quarterback Stephen Johnson was 13/22 for 89 yards, did not have a touchdown nor interception, but did record two lost fumbles and took four sacks. Veteran running back JoJo Kemp lead the team in rushing with 39 yards on 10 carries. Kicker Austin MacGinnis was 2/2 on field goals and scored all six of the team’s points.
On defense, safety Mike Edwards lead the team with 12 total tackles and two pass defenses. Star linebacker Jordan Jones recorded 8 total tackles (one for a loss) and increased his SEC-leading total to 51. He also penetrated Alabama’s offensive line with three quarterback hurries.
Kentucky will return home this week to prepare for SEC foe Vanderbilt. With their record at 2-3, they’ll look to get back to .500 on the season. The game is set to kickoff at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 2-3, 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference. No. 1 Alabama is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.
- Alabama leads the all-time series in games played, 37-2-1, including a 9-0 mark in games played in Tuscaloosa.
- Kentucky will return to action Sat. Oct. 8, playing at Vanderbilt at 4 p.m. in Commonwealth Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Kentucky Team Notes
- UK’s game captains were senior center Jon Toth, junior wide receiver JeffBadet, junior linebacker Courtney Love and senior defensive linemanCourtney Miggins.
- Kentucky scored on its opening possession for the first time this season, concluding with Austin MacGinnis’ 45-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
- With De’Niro Laster’s fumble recovery in the first quarter the Wildcats have now forced a turnover in 10 of their past 11 games.
- Kentucky rushed for 72 yards, more than the 67.5 yards per game Alabama’s defense had allowed entering the game, which ranked it No. 5 nationally.
- Kentucky held Alabama to a season-low 34 points. The Crimson Tide’s previous low was 38 versus Western Kentucky on Sept. 10.
Kentucky Player Notes
- Freshman punter Grant McKinniss boomed a career-long 61-yard punt in the second quarter. His previous long was 53 yards against both Florida and South Carolina. He is now averaging 41.8 yards per punt on the season. For the game, McKinniss averaged 44.7 yards on six punts, besting his previous high average of 43.4 versus Florida on Sept. 8.
- Junior kicker Austin MacGinnis had eight points in the game, including field goals of 45 and 30 yards.
- MacGinnis now has 190 career points and continues to rank seventh all-time on UK’s career scoring list.
- MacGinnis needs two more points to tie Craig Yeast for sixth all-time at Kentucky.
- Junior defensive end/linebacker De’Niro Laster recovered a fumble in the first quarter, the first fumble recovery of his UK career. He also recorded the first sack of his career in the third quarter. He now has 14.0 tackles, 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss this season.
- Redshirt freshman linebacker Eli Brown saw his most extensive action of season, registering a career-high 7.0 tackles in the game. Brown came into the game with 5.0 tackles on the season and a previous game-high of 2.0 set against both Florida and New Mexico State.
- Senior center Jon Toth started his 40th consecutive game for the Wildcats. Toth, along with senior defensive back J.D. Harmon and senior wide receiver Ryan Timmons, have each played a team-high 41 games in their career.
- Sophomore safety Mike Edwards led the Wildcats with 12 tackles in the game, tying his career high set against New Mexico State on Sept. 17. He ranks second in tackles on the season with 43.
Senior running back Jojo Kemp led the Wildcats with 39 yards rushing on 10 attempts. He now has 1,435 career rushing yards, good for 21st on the school’s career rushing list. He needs 13 yards to equal Bobby Cravens (1956-58) for 20th.
And here are the postgame quotes from UK coaches and players:
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops
“You know, I felt like we did some better things in this game. The bad thing is, we’re still capable of so much more and that’s what aggravates you. I definitely feel like we grew. Talking about improvement and growing as a team, you know, I think we did that in certain phases and maybe took a step back in others, but we’ll keep on working. That’s a quality football team (Alabama) in a hostile environment. We started the game much better than the last time we were in this situation. We had a chance to do some good things and go up by at least six and we gave up the turnover there early. That we can’t do. They have a lot to do with that, by covering people and putting a lot of pressure on you with their front four. Again, we’ll give them credit. We need to get some first downs. I thought, defensively, we had some good stops. They’re always going to be a lot to handle. We weren’t efficient enough on third down. They were, on both sides of the ball, and that’s where the game’s going to get won and lost. Again, I feel like we did some better things and we’ll continue to improve. I’m looking forward to getting back to work. I told the team we’ll get back late tonight and tomorrowthey’ve got to get their rest and their treatment. We’ve got to get back to workon Monday before we have an off-week. We’ve got to put a lot into this next week to try to get to .500.”
On quarterback Stephen Johnson:
“Well we just got to keep on coaching like we’re doing. Reps help with Stephen – we talked all week about not being back there dancing around with the ball. You’ve got to make quick decisions and we certainly need to protect the ball. We talked about it all week, about how many touchdowns (Alabama) scores non-offensively. At that point (Kentucky first turnover) we were just hanging in the game, playing some good defense, but you can’t turn it over. I think with Stephen it takes some more reps and some more experience.
On message going forward:
“I’m worried about the next one honestly, that’s what I just told them. We are a late show, and we will get back late tonight. Our players have to do their part to get treatment and to get rest. Tomorrow we have to get back to work and have a great Monday.”
#26 Benny Snell, RB
On specific game situation: “It’s in the coaches’ hands. We all stay prepared so it’s not really a game plan. We know when we’re going in.”
On amount of carries between first and second half: “It’s just the flow of the game. I expect to get the ball whenever my number is called and that’s all I can do.”
#15 Stephen Johnson, Quarterback
On today’s fumbles and protecting the ball: “I was just trying to make something happen and I didn’t hold the ball like I should. It ended up coming out those three times. That is something that I for sure need to work on this upcoming week.”
On balancing trying to extend plays and throwing the ball away or taking a sack:
“This week there was definitely an emphasis on how Alabama is a great team with a lot of speed. There was a main point of emphasis to get the ball out as quickly as possible and not trying to make too many great plays. They (Alabama) have great athletes on that side of the ball (defense) and that was one thing that I didn’t obviously focus on this week. I need to get better at that this upcoming week.”