Alabama Dominant In Bluegrass Country Despite Mistakes
By Brett Beaird
Would No. 1 ranked Alabama (6-0, 3-0) be focused during their first road game in three weeks? Could the offense continue to build on the impressive performances in the last two games? How would the defense play against another dreaded “dual-threat” quarterback? Here are five takeaways on Alabama's 48-7 spanking of Kentucky (1-5, 0-3):
Could Red Zone Fumbles And Dropped Passes Keep The Tide From Winning Three Consecutive National Championships?
Red zone fumbles and dropped passes marred an offensive onslaught. T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are two of the most talented running backs in the SEC. The Crimson Tide piled up a season-high 299 rushing yards, including 188 in the first half. Yeldon ran for 124 yards and Drake followed close behind with 106 yards, including another acrobatic touchdown run. However, red zone fumbles by Yeldon and Drake on the Crimson Tide's second and third possessions of the game could have proven costly against a much better team, such as LSU on Nov. 9. Yeldon is a special talent and will only get better, but he has lost key fumbles in the red zone against LSU in 2012, Texas A&M late in the fourth quarter and against Kentucky on Saturday night. Fumbling kept Drake from getting more carries earlier in the season.
Dropped passes stalled several drives and kept the Tide from putting the game away earlier. The good news: Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has started throwing more passes to the running backs. The bad news: The backs haven't caught the ball. Three drops, including one by Yeldon on a wheel route and Jalston Fowler at the 5-yard line, cost Alabama two sure touchdowns. Normally sure-handed Kenny Bell had two drops, one early on the first drive that would have moved Alabama into scoring position.
Is This The Same Offense That Played Against Virginia Tech?
The Tide gained a paltry 206 yards in total offense against a very good Hokies defense. Alabama gained 223 yards against Kentucky in the second quarter. AJ McCarron completed 21 of 35 passes for a career high of 359 yards and the Alabama offense rolled for 668 total yards (its second-largest total since the all-time record of 833 yards against Virginia Tech in a 77-6 victory in 1973). The win produced two 100-yard rushing performances and a 300-yard passer in the same game for the first time in Alabama football history. The Tide tied a school record for first downs in a game with 35, equaling the mark set against Western Carolina in 2007. After dominating time of possession versus Kentucky, Alabama moved up to second in the SEC and sixth in the nation (33:47 minutes per game).
Would Amari Cooper Have A Breakout Game?
No, but he experienced his best game this season. Cooper had a season-long, 42-yard catch and run midway through the third quarter that set up another Yeldon touchdown run. Cooper caught three passes for a season high of 62 yards and looked more confident running his routes. Cooper's “disappointing” season so far has not affected his blocking. Alabama receivers are some of the best downfield blockers on the team, and Cooper continues to be a dependable blocker for the running backs and other receivers.
Is This The Same Defense That Played Against Texas A&M?
The Kentucky offense never will be mistaken for Baylor or Oregon, but the Wildcats had shown some signs of life, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter last week against South Carolina. Jalen Whitlow seemed to have wrestled the starting quarterback position from Maxwell Smith with his impressive performance against the Gamecocks. Whitlow even brought the dreaded “dual threat” many college football pundits like to bring up as Nick Saban's kryptonite.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Whitlow suffered an ankle injury on the sixth snap of the night. Kentucky finished the first half with a total of 62 yards (21 passing and 41 rushing) and six more punts than points. Kentucky was 0-for-6 in third down attempts and only converted four first downs. The Crimson Tide did not allow Kentucky to cross the 50-yard line until its second drive of the third quarter. Alabama now only gives up 278.2 yards per game, second in the SEC and eighth in the nation. The Tide is first in the SEC and second nationally in scoring defense (11.3 points per game).
John Fulton subbed for CB Deion Belue in the third quarter and Smith was able to take advantage, throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Javess Blue, who beat Fulton badly on the play. Smith's touchdown toss was the first touchdown pass the Alabama defense has given up since the fourth quarter of the Texas A&M game. Except for the Texas A&M game, Alabama has given up two touchdowns, a 78-yard touchdown run by Trey Edmunds of Virginia Tech and Blue's 30-yard touchdown pass.
Is C.J. Mosley The Mid-Season SEC Player Of The Year?
At the midway point of the season, C.J. Mosley could be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He led the team in tackles again with seven against Kentucky, but more importantly, he's the “quarterback” of the defense. He lines up everyone.
As Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com noted: "Watching Mosley in the middle of the field is like watching a conductor. Before one third-down snap in the third quarter, he waved to one of his down linemen to widen his split. He then gestured to one of his defensive backs. He then dropped into coverage and watched Kentucky’s pass fall well short of its target."
Freshman DE A'Shawn Robinson improves every play. Robinson picked up another two sacks in dominating the Wildcats offensive line. He is one of the most impressive defensive linemen in recent memory for the Crimson Tide.
Up next: vs. Arkansas (3-4, 0-3), 6 p.m., Bryant-Denny Stadium (ESPN)