Good enough

Alabama's football team squandered a number of scoring opportunities at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. Fortunately the Crimson Tide had opportunities to spare as Bama defeated Kentucky, 27-17, in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Alabama improved its record to 2-1, while the Wildcats fell to 1-2.

Diminutive Tide halfback Shaud Williams (5-8, 191) scored three touchdowns to outshine Kentucky's massive quarterback Jared Lorenzen (6-4, 260).

It was an important victory for Alabama and new Head Coach Mike Shula, coming a week after the Crimson Tide's disappointing 20-13 loss to number one ranked Oklahoma. Bama now leads the series with Kentucky 32-2-1.

Alabama continues its season-opening homestand Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Mid-American Conference power Northern Illinois. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m. CDT and the only television coverage will be pay-per-view.

Williams scored on a 15-yard run in the first quarter, then helped Bama put the game away with touchdown runs of two and seven yards in the fourth quarter. Williams was a workhorse for Alabama, picking up 174 rushing yards on 30 carries.

Alabama made eight trips into the red zone, but scored only the three touchdowns by Williams. Twice the Tide settled for field goals by Brian Bostick. Bostick connected on a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 30-yard three-pointer in the third period. However, Alabama missed a short field goal attempt on its first possession of the game and threw an interception from the four-yard line in the waning seconds of the first half. The final trip to the Kentucky goalline area came on the final series of the game as Bama was inside the Wildcats' 10-yard line and did not attempt to score.

Although Lorenzen was very good at quarterback for Kentucky, Alabama's defense probably won the day. Lorenzen, who was victimized by several dropped passes, completed 15 of 24 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. Bama quarterback Brodie Croyle won the statistical battle against the celebrated Lorenzen. Croyle completed 14 of 27 passes for 198 yards.

Although Alabama never trailed in the game and the contest was never tied after Williams' first touchdown, because of missed opportunities, the Tide was never able to pull away from Kentucky. Bama led by only 10-7 at halftime, but got a little breathing room in the fourth quarter when Williams scored his second touchdown on the first play of the final period to make it 20-10. With just over five minutes to play Williams scored again to make it 27-10.

Kentucky made one final thrust, driving to a quick touchdown to answer the Tide's final score. Lorenzen connected on a nice pass to dangerous Derek Abney, who got it into the end zone on a 24-yard play with just over four minutes to play.

But when Brandon Greer recovered the Cats' on-sides kick attempt, Bama was able to run out the clock. Greer had also been involved in another key fourth quarter play, taking a 21-yard pass on a fourth-and-sixth play just before Williams' final touchdown.

"It felt great to get our first win in the SEC," Shula said. He admitted that Alabama's performance was "frustrating" at times.

The Tide coach said he thought Williams' play was even better than it had been in the first two games. Defensively, Shula said, he thought his team played well against a quarterback who is "unique." Shula said, "I think our guys did a better job of wrapping him up and making sacks that other teams we have watched."

Alabama's defense held Kentucky to only 11 first downs. The Wildcats finished with only 26 net rushing yards on 23 carries, while Lorenzen's passing yardage gave Kentucky total offense of 47 plays for only 195 yards (4.1 yards per play). Lorenzen was also the Cats' most dangerous runner. He ran eight times (including being sacked twice for 19 yards) and picked up 35 yards, but lost 33. His 16-yard run was Kentucky's longest of the enight. One reason for Alabama's defensive success was that the Crimson Tide offense kept the football for 36:26, while Kentucky had the ball for only 23:34.

Meanwhile, the Alabama offense had 29 first downs. Bama had 53 rushes for 266 net yards and 27 passes for 198 yards for total offense of 80 plays for 464 yards (5.8 yards per play).

In addition to Williams' 30 rushes for 174 yards, Bama got eight carries for 62 yards from Kenneth Darby. Triandos Luke had three receptions for 50 yards, Dre Fulgham three for 32. Zach Fletcher and Le'Ron McClain each had two catches for 35 yards.

Williams' three touchdowns, 174 yards, and 30 rushes were all Alabama career highs.

Alabama enjoyed very good field position most of the night. Bama's first touchdown resulted from only a 44-yard drive and Bostick's first successful field goal after only a 25-yard drive. But the Tide went 59 yards in 10 plays to Bostick's second field goal and the Tide's two fourth quarter touchdowns were after a seven-play, 79-yard drive and a nine-play, 68-yard march.

There were two changes in the Alabama starting line-up because of injuries. As expected, freshman fullback Tim Castille did not play. In his place, another freshman, Le'Ron McClain got the start. Junior left guard Justin Smiley, who had started his previous 27 games, was held out of the contest with what appeared to be a foot or ankle injury. Both Castille and Smiley, along with senior linebacker Cornelius Wortham and senior wide receiver Antonio Carter – neither of whom has played this year – were in street clothes on the Alabama sideline.

The game also marked the first action this year for wide receiver Brandon Brooks (part of the "hands" receiving team when Kentucky was on-sides kicking), tight end Greg McLain (last year's starting fullback), kickoff man Kyle Robinson, Matt Miller, who played on special teams, and defensive tackle Taylor Britt.


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