Alabama Hangs On For Win Over Cats
Alabama won, but the Crimson Tide hardly looked like the nation's second-ranked team. And the performance will possibly be reflected in this week's polls. Leigh Tiffin's 24-yard field goal with 2:21 to play turned out to be the winning margin in Bama's 17-14 decision over Kentucky in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. It is unlikely anyone in the stadium, particularly Alabama Coach Nick Saban, expected that field goal to provide the victory.
Tiffin's field goal came at the end of a 15-play, 76-yard drive that ate up most of the last half of the fourth quarter and gave the Tide a 10-point lead. Bama then went to what was presumably a prevent defense and Kentucky managed to score a touchdown with 40 seconds to play in the game. DeMoreo Ford got behind the Alabama secondary and took Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline's pass to the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown that closed the scoring. Kentucky's last gasp onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Alabama had only to kill the clock.
Alabama continued undefeated, 6-0 overall and 3-0 in SEC play. The Wildcats fell to 4-1 and 0-1 in conference play.
Alabama now gets an open date. The Crimson Tide will return to action on Saturday, October 18, hosting the Ole Miss Rebels.
Tide tailback Glen Coffee had a statistically excellent day with 25 carries for 218 yards (8.7 yards per carry), including a 78-yard run for a touchdown and a 28-yard run to set up the winning field goal. But his second quarter fumble inside the Kentucky 10-yard line may have prevented the Tide from opening up the type advantage that leads to easy wins. Alabama had a 14-0 lead at the time, but didn't score again until the final minutes of the game.
Coffee had hero moments and a near-goat moment in Alabama's final drive. Bama made the decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-one at the Kentucky 46 and he made the yard. Two plays later Coffee went up the middle and gained 28 yards to the Kentucky 12. He fumbled, but the ball went out of bounds, so Bama retained control. A few minutes later Alabama faced another fourth-and-one near the goalline. Although the Tide lined up as if to go for it, Kentucky wasn't falling for the deception. After a delay of game penalty, Tiffin kicked the Tide to a 17-7 lead with 2:12 to play.
Among things notable in the game was Alabama, which has been the best team in the SEC at avoiding penalties, being flagged a season-high 10 times for 90 yards. Penalties are an important part of football and have played a role in Alabama success this season. Kentucky was hit with a couple of key penalties on its first possession and lost the ball. On the whole, it could be said that the Tide was more the victim of its penalties. On one occasion, Bama was able to overcome a huge penalty in dramatic fashion.
Bama's second possession of the game started at its own 24. Glen Coffee had a modest run on first down. Second down looked good when Julio Jones made an excellent reception of a long John Parker Wilson pass. The 40-yard gain, however, was wiped out by a penalty and turned into a five-yard loss. From the 22, Coffee burst up the middle and went 78 yards for a touchdown with 9:48 to play in the first quarter.
Alabama would again have disappointment turn into quick points later in the quarter. Bama had made a long drive, from its two-yard line to the Kentucky 17 where the Tide faced fourth and five. Tiffin was called on for a routine field goal, 34 yards, but pushed it to the right, just missing.
Kentucky took over at its 20. On third-and-10 Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline was attempting to pass, but with Javier Arenas coming on a cornerblitz the ball slipped out of his hands at the nine and was grabbed by Bama linebacker Rolando McClain at the four. McClain took it in for the touchdown. Tiffin missed the extra point kick, but had another opportunity when the Wildcats were offsides and knocked it through to give Alabama a 14-0 lead with 1:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Alabama looked to be on the verge of putting the game away early in the second quarter when the Tide drove inside the Kentucky 10-yard line. Bama had a nice march working, starting with a 16-yard pass from Wilson to Jones and including back-t0-back completions to tight end Nick Walker to the Kentucky 17. On a third-and-three from the 10 Coffee went over left tackle for a five-yard gain, but was hit by Kentucky's Braxton Kelley and fumbled. Robbie McAtee recovered for the Wildcats at the Alabama five, preventing almost certain Crimson Tide points.
It was 14-0 at halftime. Although Alabama had dominated statistically, it was still a game.
At the half Alabama had nine first downs to Kentucky's four, 22 rushes for 161 yards to the Wildcats' 14-16, and Bama had completed six of 12 passes for 92 yards to Kentucky's 6-15 for 44. In total offense it was Alabama 253 yards, Kentucky 60 yards.
But Alabama had been flagged six times for 60 yards and Wilson had been sacked three times, keeping the Tide offense out of sync.
Final statistics ended up somewhat closer with the Tide having 17 first downs to Kentucky's 14, Bama having 49 rushes for 282 yards the Wildcats 20-35, Alabama completing seven of 17 passes for 106 yards and Kentucky 20-42 for 241 yards. Total offense was Alabama 388, Kentucky 276. Bama had an advantage in time of possession of 35:45 to 24:15.
In addition to Coffee's big rushing game, Mark Ingram had 11 carries for 66 yards. Julio Jones, even with the two big receptions for gains taken away, had three receptions for 52 yards.
Although Tiffin's field goal misses were not good, in other areas of special teams were pleasing. P.J. Fitzgerald had six punts for a 43.2 average and the Wildcats had only 14 yards in punt returns. Javier Arenas had four punt returns for 52 yards. Bama kickoff coverage allowed only 86 yards on four runbacks, great improvement.
Rolando McClain's fumble recovery for a touchdown was his big play, but the sophomore middle linebacker was also in on 10 tackles. Javier Arenas was in on six tackles, Kareen Jackson five with an interception and two passes broken up. Bobby Greenwood, who moves from end to nose tackle in nickel situations, was in on three tackles, had a sack for a six-yard loss, broke up one pass, and had a quarterback hurry that resulted in an incomplete pass.
Kentucky got a big break midway through the third quarter when a punt to Javier Arenas was fumbled and recovered by the Wildcats' Derrick Locke at the Alabama 39. The Wildcats had three passes for a gain of five yards. Rather than attempt a 49-yard field goal, Kentucky went for it on fourth down and five. Hartline had to scramble and came up just short of the first down, turning the ball over to Alabama at the Tide 29.
Alabama seemed to be out of the hole on a great pass and catch, Wilson to Jones, but the play was ruled offensive pass interference. It was the second excellent Jones catch for big yardage that was wiped out by a Bama penalty. The two penalties eliminated 60 yards in passing yardage.
After getting the ball back on a punt, the Wildcats made quick work to a touchdown. Kentucky drove 70 yards in 34 seconds, only two plays, both inside screen passes. After a pass interference call against Alabama, Hartline completed a pass to Locke for 36 yards to the Alabama 26-yard line, then passed to Dickie Lyons, who went in for the touchdown. With 5:49 to play and Lones Seiber's extra point kick, Bama's lead had been cut to 14-7.
Alabama's offense continued to struggle, but the Tide defense stepped up when Kareem Jackson intercepted a pass to stop Kentucky momentum in Bama territory. He picked it off at the Alabama 32 and returned it to the Tide 39.
Bama abandoned a passing game that had failed to produce and went to Glen Coffee for four consecutive carries for two first downs to the Kentucky 32. Mark Ingram then picked up seven yards before being tackled behind the line for a two-yard loss as the third quarter ended.
Wilson scrambled to the 25, short of the first down, and Tiffin missed on a 41-yard field goal attempt, but field position had been changed. Another exchange and Alabama was able to mount its game-winning drive.
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