Whitlow powers Cats past Alabama State

Kentucky got a much-needed shot of confidence heading into its final four games of the season, stepping out of conference Saturday night to defeat FCS opponent Alabama State 48-14 on Homecoming at Commonwealth Stadium.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky got a much-needed shot of confidence heading into its final four games of the season, stepping out of conference Saturday night to defeat FCS opponent Alabama State 48-14 on Homecoming at Commonwealth Stadium.

The Wildcats (2-6, 0-4 SEC) snapped a five-game losing streak by making plays in all three phases of the game. The Kentucky offense recorded 422 yards, including 233 on the ground, and posted its fourth consecutive game without a turnover. Meanwhile, the UK defense held the Hornets to 23 points below their season scoring average and special teams came up with a blocked punt that produced a touchdown.

"It's a team game," Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow said, "and it feels really good when you can get the whole team doing some things to help you win."


Jalen Whitlow looked to shake an ASU defender. Whitlow rushed for 101 yards and two scores in the Wildcats' 48-14 win. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)

There was a noticeably-different vibe in the Kentucky locker room following the game.

"It's always good to get a win," UK head coach Mark Stoops said. "We've gone a long time since our last one, and it feels good to get one. The guys appreciate it. They were excited in the locker room.

"Our guys have been working hard and preparing the right way, so this was good. Now let's see what we can do down the stretch (of the SEC schedule)."

Kentucky has No. 10 Missouri coming up next week at Commonwealth Stadium, followed by games at Vanderbilt and Georgia before wrapping up the season at home against Tennessee.

If the Cats are going to notch a couple more wins down the stretch, quarterback play will be a big part of it. On this night, sophomore Jalen Whitlow was outstanding. He began the game with a stadium-record 88-yard touchdown run on the Cats' first possession and finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to go along with 186 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

"It was the longest touchdown I've ever run since little league," Whitlow said. "I had that week were I didn't practice much, so I ran out of gas. I'm thankful for Demarco (Robinson for making some key blocks). I need to go give him a hug."

Whitlow became the first UK quarterback since Shane Boyd in 2004 to have more than 100 yards rushing and passing in the same game. Boyd was also the last to have at least two scores rushing and passing in the same game.

"It was good to see," Stoops said of Whitlow's play. "I thought he stepped up and accepted that (challenge to play tougher) and wanted to go out there and play the whole game if need be. I felt like he pulled it down and ran around and created and made some plays when we needed him to, so that was good to see."

Alabama State (6-3, 6-1 SWAC) saw a six-game winning streak end. The Hornets looked like they would challenge UK early in the game after former Georgia Bulldog tailback Isaiah Crowell raced 32 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:14 remaining in the first quarter, but the Cats countered with 24 unanswered points going into halftime.

Demarco Robinson recovered a fumble by teammate Raymond Sanders in the end zone to give UK a 14-7 advantage with 3:15 left in the first period. Whitlow then connected with Alex Montgomery on a 6-yard touchdown pass five seconds into the second quarter to make it 21-7.

A blocked punt by linebacker Josh Forrest helped set up UK's next score, a 7-yard run by JoJo Kemp at the 12:38 mark of the second quarter. Kemp, a freshman tailback, finished with 67 yards on 13 carries.

Joe Mansour added a 39-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to make it 31-7. His 29-yard field goal at the 12:33 mark of the third quarter extended the Cats' lead to 34-7.

Whitlow's second rushing TD of the night, this time from only 2 yards out, made it 41-7 with 7:10 remaining in the period. He then found tight end Steven Borden on a 38-yard touchdown pass with 3:41 left in the third quarter to push the margin to 48-7. It marked the first career TD pass for Borden, the son of professional wrestling legend Steve Borden, aka "Sting."

Alabama State ended a streak of 41 straight points by UK with a 68-yard pass from Daniel Duhart to Jamel Johnson with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter.

Crowell, the nation's top-rated high school running back in the Class of 2011, finished with 84 yards on 12 carries to lead the Alabama State offense.

NOTES:

• It marked the first meeting between Kentucky and Alabama State.

• Kentucky's four-game streak without turning the ball over is thought to be a school record. It is the only time the Cats have accomplished it in records dating back to the 1946 season.

• Whitlow became the fifth UK quarterback since 1983 to rush for 100 or more yards, joining Matt Roark (124 vs. Tennessee in 2011), Shane Boyd (130, vs. Indiana, 2004), Pookie Jones (138, vs. Kent State, 1993) and Randall Cobb (three games during his career).

• Whitlow's 88-yard run was the longest by an SEC player this season and the fourth-longest in the NCAA.

• Kentucky was 2-for-3 on fourth-down conversions, pushing its season rate to 15 of 21 (71 percent).

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports for daily newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for FOX Sports since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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