Last weekend I took Granny (below, uh, yeah that's our car, too) with me to the Alabama game to see our team in person. What did I see? An extraordinarily too long piece follows.
We arrived a few hours before kick-off, so we had some time to take in the atmosphere. Alabama has a beautiful campus with a lot of open spaces throughout the campus. While the dorms get a little packed together the rest of the campus is spacious with several impressive new buildings scattered among the campus which dates back to the 1830s. With one of the largest Greek populations, fraternity row is large and impressive with a slew of antebellum and other large houses and sorority row is much the same but with even larger houses.
People were extremely friendly as we spent a couple of hours crisscrossing The Quad – an enormous open space on campus near the stadium that is absolutely packed with tents; each with food, beer, TVs, stereos and every other unattached item from a dorm room. Actually, the only non-friendly people I ran into were a couple of UK fans that hopefully weren't taken to be representative of our school. Overall, a festive, spirited atmosphere likely reminiscent of what would have been seen outside the Coliseum in ancient Rome before the Christians were fed to the lions. (Foreboding)
Denny-Bryant Stadium (100,000+ cap) is a large stadium with a nice touch of four screens set in the corners of the stadium and a sound system that is loud enough but doesn't make you cringe when used.
Unfortunately, Alabama concessions have not reached the 20th century. The expansive menu included hot dogs (no chili), popcorn, cheese bowl with chips, candy bars, and drinks. I was told by one fan that pizza was also offered somewhere in the stadium, but they had never found it. BTW – the hot dog was horrible. Perhaps the limitation was because we were on a small seating level, but I've heard similar comments from others.
Overall, I was expecting a raucous crowd, especially since it was homecoming, but the scoop and score was the only time the stadium ever got loud. It had me equating the Alabama football noise level with the UK Basketball blue-hair noise level - "Show me something really good, or I'll just sit here, watch and occasionally cheer."
One really tacky move by the Alabama host. During the game, they showed three different punt/kickoff returns for TD in the past by Alabama against Kentucky. Then they had the fans vote via text on which was the best. Would you invite someone to dinner then have the table decide which of the guest's arrest for indecent exposure was the worst? Just seemed kinda low class to me.
It never really hit me as much, but people watching the game on TV experienced a totally different game from what I saw.
When I got home, I watched a replay of the game and was jarred by the commentary; especially the poetic waxing of all things Crimson by Greg McElroy. One time he's bragging about how Reuben Foster (6'1", 236#) was tossing around Garrett Johnson (5'11", 175# soaking wet). Then several times discussing UK in a tone reserved for the Special Olympics. I finally reached my limit of him when he went off on a Calvin Ridley tribute while ignoring UK's longest run from scrimmage (WildKemp). Sure it wasn't even 20 yards, but it was a high point to the UK faithful. We deserved more than and eventual "First down Kentucky (move on)."
To ESPN: We've already have to endure Paul Finebaum now you've doubled down with McElroy. Spare us. And don't get me started on Marcus Spears/LSU.
Anyway, back to the game. As has been stated by everyone, we gave away the first half with turnovers. The missed pass to Conrad followed two plays later by the fumble was the worst turn of events, but I was jacked by the continued passion to play by the team. They didn't miss a beat because of that turn of events, the missed 3rd and long opportunity slant underthrown by Johnson or the scoop and score. This team played hard every down until the end of the game on both sides of the play, and I couldn't be prouder.
When seeing a game in person, I spend a lot of time watching the sidelines, tracking substitutions, looking for injuries, checking fatigue and excitement levels and getting a gauge for the team. From what I saw our players did not run out of gas toward the end of the game; at least, not when you consider it was against the #1 team in the country (more on that later). The team was also very positive all the way to the end, the bench looked nothing like that batch of whipped puppy dogs at the end of the Florida game.
There was a lot of mumbling by the Bama fans after the game that the game was much, much closer than the score indicated. On the plus side, a lot of players got some great experience, our defense is improving, our offense is finding its new identity, our special teams are not hurting us and our coaches are not costing us games or making major fubars. Going forward, it looks like it will be the Boom/Snell show in the backfield while Kemp will get most of his runs through the WildKemp offense except when Johnson needs a good blocker in the backfield. Boom needs some work on his blocking.
Alabama doesn't look like a #1 team. Whether they were looking ahead to their next three weeks (Ark, Tenn, TAMU), didn't respect UK or whatever reason they just didn't overly impress me. They're going to lose at least one game this year.
Hurts didn't impress. He made some good throws and some bad throws, nothing exceptional. Calvin Ripley making route adjustments after the ball was in the air and an effective front line giving pass protection pump his numbers. His running (25 yds) – meh.
Seeing Jordan Jones making tackles down field was a good thing – this guy will pursue the ball everywhere and always takes the right angle.
Seeing Courtney Love making tackles downfield was a bad thing – Courtney often took bad angles to the ball carrier or got himself block out of the play at the point of attack.
Marcus McWilson – I saw why he's been in Stoops' doghouse. What happened for him to backslide?
Grant McKinniss – we got us a punter. His 61 yarder was after it bounced back a few yards and he's only a freshman.
Chris Westry – Give us some more of your lock down coverage from last year.
Time of Possession – While it was only by the slimmest of margins (13 seconds), we won the TOP
Explosive Plays of 20+ yards – Bama 6, UK 0. That dog won 't hunt, got to do better than three downfield tosses for the game and better downfield blocking to get some explosive running plays. Longest run was 17 yards, and longest pass completion was 16 yards.
Only outdone by Alabama's defense 6 to 5 on quarterback hurries. The defense making strides.
Alabama's Time "Chicken" Williams - Wish he had been found with two guns so he could have missed the whole game. The kid is a beast and played an inspired half - 4 tackles (3 for loss, one sack), forced fumble, two quarterback hurries.