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Good morning, BBN. Odds are pretty good the vast majority of you all had a pretty late night watching the Clemson-UofL thriller after switching over from our game, so take it easy this morning. Pour some coffee, sit back, relax, and enjoy your Sunday.
Let's dive into last night vs. the Crimson Tide:
I'll begin by saying no one in their right mind expected the game to start out the way it did. No one.
An early drop in the red zone for Alabama's Cam Sims gave UK a bit of momentum, and the remainder of the quarter was about as back-and-forth as you'd want it to be against the best team in college football. The Wildcats made major stands on the defensive side of the ball, and got the ball moving early on offense. No one could believe it.
Kentucky managed to take an early 3-0 lead, and screenshot after screenshot flooded Twitter feeds across the bluegrass. UK had taken the lead over the nation's number one team. Fans coughed it up as a win, and it was awesome.
Then... Alabama remembered to run the ball.
From that moment on, the Crimson Tide put together a methodical drive consisting of only run plays, and managed to put the game's first touchdown on the board to go up 10-3. At half time, Nick Saban said "We gotta run the ball.," and they did just that. On the first drive for the Crimson Tide in the second half, Alabama's Joshua Jacobs ran the ball down UK's throat, leading the team down the field to set up a ten-yard touchdown reception for Calvin Ridley to put the Tide up 24-3. From there, Alabama took control and scored on two more consecutive drives.
Final score: 34-6, Alabama.
The Good: Jordan Jones and the Kentucky defense
The scoreboard doesn't show it, but the defense actually had a fairly impressive outing against an unbelievable Alabama offense. Missed tackles plagued the team in the first half, costing a few big plays here and there, but they managed to make some huge stops and got off the field on some crucial third downs. Jalen Hurts looked mortal in the first half, as his accuracy struggled greatly when the Wildcats provided a heavy pass rush.
Schematically, UK competed against Alabama for a lot longer than most expected, and the defensive coaching staff put the players in position to make plays. When the offense failed to get the ball moving, the defense got winded, and that's when the points started rolling in the second half for Bama. They really need better depth on the defensive side of the ball, but for Kentucky to hold the best team in the nation to their lowest point total of the season on the road, during their homecoming, color me impressed.
The man of the hour, however, is linebacker Jordan Jones.
What an underrated signing for the 2015 UK recruiting class. This kid is a baller, and has easily been the best player on the defense thus far in the season, and last night was no different. Jones flies around the field and somehow always finds himself in position to make huge plays on the ball. The linebacker out of Youngstown, Ohio finished second on the team with eight total tackles and one for loss.
The defense held their own for the most part tonight against the nation's number one squad, but Jordan Jones gets the nod for game MVP.
The Bad: Lack of touches for Benny Snell
Boom Williams started out strong, rushing to the left hash for a first down on the first play from scrimmage for the Wildcats. From there on out, however, he produced very little, finishing the game with nine carries for 22 yards. Jojo Kemp took the second string reps, and despite giving a whole lot of nothing in the first half, put together UK's best drive in the WildKemp formation in the fourth quarter, leading the Cats down the field, where they managed to add three points on the board.
That being said, Benny Snell has got to get the ball in his hands more. That's all there is to it. He finished with eight carries and 44 yards for an average of nearly five yards a carry. That's a true freshman averaging five yards a carry against a defense full of NFL players. I love Jojo to death, but you have to strike while the iron is hot and give the ball to Snell.
Many considered Benny's four touchdown performance against New Mexico State a fluke. One of the worst defenses in college football, anyone could dominate like that, right?
Snell put the team on his back against South Carolina, killed the clock, and moved the chains. There was nothing that could stop the kid from converting time and time again, but many focused on South Carolina being one of the worst teams in the SEC.
I'm not sure anyone can give an excuse for Snell not getting the bulk of carries after last night's performance.
After the loss, Eddie Gran made a point to praise Jojo Kemp on his late-game success, but reiterated, "Benny is going to get his touches. Benny is going to be just fine.
” So there is reason for optimism in this department.
The Ugly: Stephen Johnson's rough outing
The first drive looked promising for Johnson, as he looked poised, made the proper reads, and moved the ball quite well from scrimmage. From that point on, however, not much went well for the JUCO transfer.
On nearly every throw, Johnson seemed to wait just a second or two too long, and the pressure managed to get the best of him. He had open targets, but failed to hit them time and time again when the Crimson Tide reached the backfield.
And then there were the fumbles. Johnson put the ball on the ground three times last night, something that just can't happen against any SEC opponent. Without the fumble late in the first half, the score remains 10-3 at half time, and the momentum shift heading Alabama's way is delayed, at the very least. Those were crucial mistakes, and if UK wants to come away with a win next weekend and keep their bowl hopes alive, Johnson has to take better care of the ball.
The Alabama defense is a juggernaut of all juggernauts, so we'll be a little easier on him, but he needs to perform better next week against Vandy.
Hey, we'll always have that first quarter.