Alabama vs. Kentucky: 10 Things We Learned from the Tide's Win
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Alabama endured a few early hiccups before asserting its will over hapless Kentucky in a dominating 48-7 victory Saturday from Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky.
The Tide’s offense overcame a pair of first-quarter red-zone fumbles before getting things in gear en route to rolling up a season-high 668 yards of total offense.
Alabama's defense finally allowed a touchdown for the first time since the Texas A&M game. However, the Wildcats struggled to generate any consistency offensively and were held to only 170 yards of total offense.
Kentucky’s plans offensively took a major hit with an early injury to starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow.
What are the main takeaways from Alabama’s convincing win over Kentucky?
10. Tide's Early Mistakes Lead to Slow Start
Alabama’s offense was dominant throughout the game, and even during its struggles in the first quarter, most of the wounds came from self-inflicted mistakes.
It started with normally reliable wideout Kenny Bell dropping a long pass on third down on the Tide’s first possession and continued with red-zone fumbles by running backs Kenyan Drake and T.J. Yeldon.
While Kentucky isn’t a team capable of capitalizing on such mistakes, those are the kind of miscues that could bite the Tide as the schedule gets tougher moving forward.
On the positive side, Alabama was able to rebound with a strong performance in the second quarter and carry a commanding 24-0 lead into halftime.
9. Whitlow Injury Handcuffs UK Offense
After platooning quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow through the first four games this season, offensive coordinator Neal Brown appeared to settle on Whitlow after his strong performance last week in a 35-28 loss to South Carolina.
However, after Whitlow was knocked out of the game early in the first quarter with a left ankle injury, the game plan was essentially rendered moot with Smith forced into action.
Whitlow’s injury essentially killed any chances Kentucky had of capitalizing on the early turnovers that the defense was able to create.
The injury to Whitlow puts the Wildcats offense back to square one, and Brown may be forced to retool the playbook in order to fit Smith’s strengths until Whitlow returns.
8. Pair of Tide Freshmen Emerging
Nick Saban isn’t shy about giving young players an opportunity if they have proved they can handle themselves in the rugged SEC.
A pair of former touted recruits, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, have continued to earn more reps and each player enjoyed strong performances against the Wildcats.
Howard hauled in a pair of receptions for 37 yards, and Robinson led the defensive effort with a pair of sacks.
Howard adds another dimension to the offense as a pass-catching tight end, and Robinson gives the Tide an athletic and physical presence who can excel at tackle or end on the defensive front.
7. Stoops Still Rebuilding
Prior to the game against the Tide, Kentucky had performed admirably in losses to ranked opponents such as Louisville, Florida and South Carolina.
Although Alabama is a different animal, it’s almost criminal to ask a program like Kentucky to get the Tide on the end of a consecutive four-game stretch against Top 20 opponents.
Mark Stoops has done a great job in attracting young players to Lexington, but the blowout loss to Alabama shows just how far he is from building a contending program.
Given the injury situation and the rugged SEC schedule, the main task for Stoops and his staff is to continue to motivate his players to play with pride, toughness and effort over the second half of the season.
6. DeAndrew White Becoming Tide’s Most Consistent WR
While Amari Cooper has gotten off to a slow start in 2013, the player he replaced in the starting lineup last season—junior DeAndrew White—has enjoyed a strong comeback season after a torn ACL prematurely ended his 2012 season.
White hauled in four passes for 80 yards against Kentucky and had another sensational long catch wiped away due to a holding penalty. For the season, White is the Tide's leader in receiving yards (292) and touchdowns (three).
His effort against Kentucky is another indicator that White is developing into AJ McCarron’s most trusted target this season.
5. Tide Offense Improving on Third Down
Through its first four games, Alabama struggled to move the chains on third down.
However, after a strong effort last week against Georgia State (converted six of nine third-down attempts), the Tide’s offense followed it up by converting 10 of its 14 tries on third down against Kentucky.
Alabama helped its own cause by establishing the ground game and staying on schedule with regard to down and distance.
If the Tide can continue to avoid 3rd-and-long situations, that is a great sign for the offense moving forward.
4. Tide Dominant in the Trenches
Even though Alabama is 6-0 and in a position most fans and pundits expected it to be in, this year has felt different at times—mainly because Alabama hasn’t looked like Alabama up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage for most of the season.
That sentiment looks to be changing after another dominant effort against the Wildcats.
Alabama had two running backs top the century mark, and McCarron threw for a career-high 359 yards. The offensive line was consistently able to generate a strong push and blow open holes for the running backs.
The defensive line allowed Kentucky to rush for only 94 yards.
It looks like Alabama’s soft October schedule has given the Tide a chance to work out the kinks that bothered them earlier in the season.
3. Yeldon and Drake Forming Powerful RB Duo
Coming into the season, the biggest mystery surrounding Alabama’s backfield was figuring out which talented rusher in a stable of backs would step up and provide a complement to T.J. Yeldon.
After finding the end zone for the fifth consecutive game, sophomore Kenyan Drake appears to have settled into the backup role behind Yeldon.
Both Drake and Yeldon topped the 100-yard mark and combined to pile up 230 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
With the offensive line getting into gear, the combo of Yeldon and Drake are turning into one of the SEC’s better rushing duos.
2. Tide Offense Gets Untracked
Aside from the outburst against Texas A&M in Week 3, Alabama’s offense has largely been plagued by spells of ineffective play.
Against Kentucky, the offense was able to put together its most complete effort of the season.
The Tide piled up 299 yards rushing and another 369 yards through the air. The 668 yards of total offense is the team’s season high.
While the early pair of turnovers are cause for concern, it appears that the Tide’s offense is getting closer to becoming the well-oiled machine most fans envisioned entering the season.
1. Defense Molding into Championship Form
Alabama’s defense put together its fourth consecutive strong outing after completely dominating the Wildcats.
Kentucky’s offense failed to cross midfield in the first half, and the Wildcats converted just two of its 12 attempts on third down. Additionally, Alabama only allowed only one play of longer than 20 yards.
The progress that the Tide’s defense has made over the last month is encouraging, and it gives that unit a ton of confidence heading into the second half of the season.