Once Alabama figured out that the Crimson Tide could run against the Kentucky Wildcats, Bama was able to use the pass to secure a comfortable, albeit mostly uninspired, 34-6 win for homecoming in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.
Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts connected with sophomore Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley for two touchdowns, freshman tailback Joshua Jacobs ran for one TD, and Ronnie Harrison tacked on that Tide specialty, the non-offensive touchdown. Adam Griffith was good on two of three short field goals.
No. 1 ranked Alabama improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Kentucky fell to 2-3 overall, 1-2 in the conference.
Alabama continues in SEC play next week as the Crimson Tide heads to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks. The game time and television broadcast is 6 p.m.CDT on ESPN.
Hurts connected with Ridley on 11 passes for 174 yards, including third quarter touchdown passes of 10 and 19 yards.
No one would suggest that Alabama took advantage of all its first half scoring opportunities as the Tide took a modest 17-3 lead over the Wildcats. Bama did succeed in two Tide staples – a dominating run game and a non-offensive touchdown.
Alabama seemed out of sync offensively to start the game. A first possession drive was moving along, but faced a fourth-and-two at the Kentucky 31. A false start made it tougher, but the play would have worked but for a dropped pass inside the 15.
Following that, the Wildcats drove to the Alabama 27 where Austin MacGinnis, a junior from Wedowee who played at Prattville High School, nailed a 45-yard field goal to give the Cats a 3-0 lead.
That didn’t really wake up the Alabama offense, which fumbled on its next possession when Hurts tried to hand off to Ridley, the Wildcats recovering. Fortunately, Alabama’s Christian Miller and Ryan Anderson combined to sack Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson with Anderson forcing the fumble and making the recovery for the Tide at the Alabama 39. Bama drove to the Kentucky 26, but three incomplete passes stalled the drive and Adam Griffith was called on to kick a 44-yard field goal, tying the score at 3-3 with 1:15 left in the first quarter.
Alabama was able to get two touchdowns in the second quarter, but still missed a scoring opportunity.
Following a Kentucky punt early in the second quarter, Bama started at its 39 with Damien Harris starting the drive with a 4-yard run. From there it was freshman Joshua Jacobs on display. Jacobs and Alabama found a sweet deal running behind Cam Robinson. Jacobs went for 29 yards to the Kentucky 29, and then had runs of 8 and 12 to set up a first-and-goal at the 9. Jacobs’s third run from there put it in the end zone for a 10-3 Tide lead. It had come on 7 running plays covering 61 yards.
Any problems the Bama defense had early in the game were gone by the second quarter, including Kentucky having the ball at the Alabama 49 and facing third-and-six. Wildcats quarterback Johnson went up the middle, was stripped of the ball by Rashaan Evans, and the ball was picked up by Ronnie Harrison, who made a nice run for 55 yards. It was Alabama’s nation’s best seventh non-offensive touchdown of the year and gave Bama a 17-3 lead.
A final disappointment of the first half was Alabama driving 13 plays to Kentucky 17 and then having to try a 35-yard field goal – which was missed to the left.
Bama began to pull away with two long scoring drives in the third quarter.
On its first possession, the Tide went 78 yards in 8 plays, the last one a 10-yard pass to Ridley. The big play in the drive was Hurts having to scramble, then finding a wide open Ridley at the Kentucky 39. Ridley ran it down to the Wildcats 16 for a 46-yard gain. It was 24-3.
The Tide started its second drive of the quarter at its 24 and went 76 yards in nine plays to make it 31-3. The drive was jump-started by a short pass to Jacobs, who turned it into a gain of 27 yards into Kentucky territory. A slant pass to Gehrig Dieter got a first down at the 33 and then Hurts scrambled for 8 to the 25. It appeared the Tide had scored from there when Bo Scarbrough tip-toed down the right sideline untouched to the end zone, but on review it was rule he was out-of-bounds at the 11. Two plays later, one of them a reviewed sack, Hurts connected with Ridley for a 19-yard touchdown.
Alabama’s next score also started in the third quarter with Xavian Marks making a nice punt return to start the Tide in Kentucky territory at the 49. Late in the quarter, Hurts connected with Ridley on a 43-yard gain to the Kentucky 6. A motion penalty hurt the cause, and early in the fourth quarter Alabama got another field goal from Griffith, this one a 24-yard effort that made it 34-3.
Kentucky went to – seriously – a wildcat offense and went on a drive of almost 10 minutes. With JoJo Kemp mostly running the ball, Kentucky drove from its 25 to the Alabama 12 where MacGinnis kicked his second field goal, a 30-yarder to make it 34-6.
Cooper Bateman took over at quarterback for Alabama and ran out the rest of the game with a mixture of runs and passes,
Alabama dominated statistically. The Tide had 25 first downs to 12 for the Wildcats. Bama had 37 rushes for 173 yards and held Kentucky to 72 yards on 36 carries. The Tide completed 25-38 passes for 315 yards, and the Wildcats were 13-22 for 89 yards.
Alabama had total offense of 75 plays for 488 yards, Kentucky 58 for 161 yards.
Bama lost its only fumble, while Kentucky lost 2-3, notably the one returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Ronnie Harrison.
Alabama converted 9-14 third down opportunities, Kentucky 6-17. The Wildcats had possession of the ball for about half a minute longer than Bama.
Joshua Jacobs led the Tide in rushing with 16 carries for 100 yards. Hurts completed 20-33 passes for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns with a long of 46. Cooper Bateman, who directed the last drive to run out the clock, was good on 5-5 for 53 yards
Calfin Ridley had 11 receptions for 174 yards. Jacobs had 3-44, Robert Foster 2-44, and Trevon Diggs 2-14.
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Jonathan Allen led the Tide with 6 primary tackles and 2 assists and had a sack. .Shaun Dion Hamilton had 4 primaries, 4 assists; Ronnie Harrison 3-4; and Reuben Foster 5-1.
Video by A.P. Steadham