TUSCALOOSA — There were some good things about Alabama’s 17-14 win over Kentucky.
More importantly, Alabama won.
That last basic fact has taken on added significance, given upset losses by Southern California, Florida, Clemson and Wake Forest in the last couple of weeks, just to name a few. Survival is the name of the game in a 12-game regular season.
“When you’re not playing well, hopefully you can make a couple of plays,” said Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson, whose third-quarter interception in Saturday’s game swung the momentum back to the Tide when it appeared as if Alabama might join the list of upset victims this season. “This is the SEC. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every week. Fortunately, we were able to pull out the win.”
Fortunate, because Alabama had a rash of penalties that stalled several drives that would have put the Wildcats away. Fortunate, because Alabama had three turnovers and nearly a fourth that could have put a huge damper on an unbeaten start to the season. Fortunate, because several illogical breakdowns on defense threatened to spoil a good defensive outing.
“Kentucky is a good football team,” said Alabama center Antoine Caldwell, “but we did a lot to hurt ourselves. We left a lot of points and a lot of yards out there on the field, stuff we haven’t been doing all season. We’ve been good with turnovers all season and we haven’t been penalized that much this season. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot.”
While Alabama seemed to counter every good move, such as tailback Glen Coffee’s 218 rushing yards, with bad ones, such as Coffee’s two fumbles in the red zone, head coach Nick Saban was quick to praise the Kentucky defense and the Alabama fan support.
The defense, Kentucky’s best in a generation, surrendered 388 yards and its first rushing touchdown this season, but maintained a perfect streak of not allowing a touchdown by opponents entering its red zone this season.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the (line), but 98, Myron Pryor, is a good talent,” said Alabama left guard Mike Johnson. “We’ve faced a lot of good guys this year and last year but he’s one of the best.”
The sellout crowd of 92,138 provided a huge assist to the Alabama defense as well, creating a big obstacle for a Wildcat offense that likes to change its plays with audibles at the line of scrimmage.
“Our crowd had a tremendous impact on this game,” Saban said. “We asked for noise, we got noise, it affected them in the first half and that really helped our defense tremendously and I appreciate that from our fans. It probably affected this game as much as any game as we’ve played here because of the style of their offense.”