Nobody expected Kentucky to walk out of Tuscaloosa tonight with a win. That’s why it was so exciting for Wildcat fans when Kentucky went up 3-0 early & recovered an Alabama fumble. I’m not kidding; Kentucky led this game at one point. Would you like more proof?
This is real. This is not doctored. This is not edited. This is not shopped. pic.twitter.com/g8lDNNTjPr— Cam (@morrisoncrying) October 1, 2016
There it is. Kentucky did actually lead this game at one point. Surprisingly enough, this game was actually close for quite some time! Alabama took a while to start playing like the number one team in the country, taking until late in the second quarter to pull away. While Kentucky may have ended up losing by quite a few touchdowns, this game wasn’t that bad to watch mainly because of the competitive nature of the first half.
Now, just what exactly did we learn from the Crimson Tide’s home win?
1. Kentucky’s defense was stout early on
Early on, before this game was out of reach, Kentucky’s defense looked notably better than they had in weeks past, especially considering the level of talent they were running up against in Alabama. After forcing the Crimson Tide to turn it over on downs during their first possession of the game, the Cats recovered a fumble to give themselves a shot at taking a nice early lead.
While Kentucky’s defense ultimately ended up faltering in the second half, giving up sizable chunks of yardage to an elite offense, they managed to hold strong in the first half. In fact, Kentucky’s 17-3 halftime deficit was mostly due to errors out of the control of the Wildcats’ defense. They held their own, and they should be proud of that fact.
2. Bama is still Bama
Yes, it was nice and all to see Kentucky go up 3-0, but everyone knew that Alabama would regain its composure soon enough. Everyone was right (duh). Jalen Hurts and Calvin Ridley proved to be the top-notch tandem that they are heralded as. Hurts wound up passing for over 260 yards and Ridley managed to haul in 11 receptions for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns. Their offense was potent.
Somehow, their defense looked even better, as they were able to stifle Kentucky all game long. While it may not sound like much to brag about, considering the opponent, it was still impressive to see Kentucky limited to only 161 yards all game. Alabama just put on a dominant performance on both sides of the ball from start to finish.
3. Kentucky’s offense just couldn’t hold up
As mentioned above, Kentucky’s offense just couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm against Alabama, a fact which isn’t that surprising. Kentucky’s ground game was stopped from the outset, and Boom Williams’ injury certainly added to those difficulties. The Cats couldn’t turn to their passing game, however, as Johnson’s two fumbles gave up serious momentum.
The first of the aforementioned fumbles came early on, after Kentucky had the ball in Alabama territory following a Crimson Tide turnover. The Wildcats had a golden opportunity to rack up points against a then-scoreless Alabama team, and they completely missed out. The second such fumble occurred later in the first half, and it resulted in a scoop and score to put the Tide up 17-3. It was never competitive from that point on.
From here, Alabama has their work cut out for them. The Crimson Tide face three ranked opponents next, and there’s a two-game road trip against Arkansas and Tennessee directly ahead of them. It only gets tougher from here, so Alabama can’t afford to look as stagnant early on as they did tonight. The teams they’re about to face are better than Kentucky, and they will capitalize.
For Kentucky, the fight to earn bowl eligibility continues as they play host to Vanderbilt next weekend. I’m not a clairvoyant, but a loss would almost certainly mean that the Cats won’t go bowling this season.