Tide, UK Players Discuss Nail-Biter
Had it not been for a career-high 218 net yards rushing by Alabama junior running back Glen Coffee, the unbeaten season Bama has might have ended Saturday.
"We want to be able to go out in any game and control the running game," said Coffee, who also caught a pass for 15 yards giving him 233 total. "When we can establish the run, it sets the tone for us. The offensive line has been a huge factor for us all season long."
As well as Coffee played, he fumbled twice, losing one in the red zone. "I can't enjoy this (win) as much as I want to because I put the ball on the ground," he said. "I still have things to work on."
Coffee's total was the most for an Alabama back since Shaun Alexander's 291-yard effort in a 1996 win at L.S.U.
Quarterback John Parker Wilson managed but 106 yards passing, but would have had more had not a pair of big plays to freshman Julio Jones been negated by penalties. Because of the non-existent passing game, Wilson and the team had to turn to Coffee.
"Glen has consistently showed his speed and been able to stick it up the middle as well," Wilson said. "He has been powerful, and can do it all for us. He is a really good back, and was obviously a big part of this win.
"They had a really good defense. They didn't do a lot (different) defensively, because they didn't need to. Their guys were that good."
On a fourth-and-inches call in the middle of the final Bama drive, Wilson didn't know what his coach was going to do. Saban went for it, and Coffee bounced off a Wildcat tackler to pick up the first down and extend what proved to be the winning drive.
"We picked up that huge fourth down," Wilson said. "We had to have a score there at the end of the game to win it. We were able to run the ball right up the middle and pound them up front. The offensive line did a great job for us."
Alabama's leading tackler was sophomore linebacker Rolando McClain, who also got in the scoring column with a four-yard return of a fumble by UK quarterback Mike Hartline. McClain has chosen to no longer speak directly to the media, but he issued a statement through Alabama's media relations office.
"I blitzed, saw the (loose) ball and just went for it," said McClain, who made 10 tackles. "I knew it was a big play, and my first (collegiate) touchdown. I was happy more for my team than myself."
Despite the close score, the Alabama defense held Kentucky to 276 yards, and only 35 net yards rushing. "It was our job to stop the run and take care of business. It is the defense's job to stop them as an entire unit," said McClain. "We played hard, but we could have turned in a better performance. We have a bye week coming up, so we will take advantage of the time to fix our mistakes."
One area that Bama was especially vulnerable Saturday was against the screen pass. "We made a couple of errors when they started running the screens," said junior linebacker Cory Reamer. "They didn't' run a lot of screens coming into this game, and we didn't recognize it as well as we have been. Their backs did a good job of getting open, and getting loose.
"It is still a win, and we'll take it."
Alabama punter P.J. Fitzgerald had a very good game with six punts for an average of 43.2 yards per punt. He said, "I knew I had to step up my game, especially now that we are in SEC play. With how the game went, field position was an important factor. It was great to get the win, but obviously we have room for improvement. Every SEC game is going to be a grind, and we have to come prepared in all aspects of our game every week."
Cornerback Kareem Jackson had an interception that stopped Kentucky momentum. He said, "Coach told us wne our man comes out to take him on that particular play. I took my man and saw the ball coming. It was a big play for us to get off the field and get the offense back on the field."
The reaction from the visiting locker room was understandable after a hard-fought loss. "I'm just disappointed that we couldn't' find a way to win this game," said Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks. "We're a good football team, and we've been a good football team for a few years. They ran the ball on us better than I thought they would."
Said wide receiver Dicky Lyons, Jr., who scored Kentucky's second touchdown: "We could have easily won had we made some of those plays that we usually make. We're going to get this corrected. None of these guys got their head down when it was 14-0. They still wanted to make plays. It just wasn't enough."
Alabama will not practice again until Tuesday and will use the bye week to heal injuries and work on areas that need improvement. The Tide next plays at home October 18 against Ole Miss, and kickoff time has not been announced.
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