Alabama football accomplished its first mission. The Crimson Tide won another SEC West crown on Saturday, defeating Kentucky, 49-21, at Kroger Field. It was Alabama’s best start to a game since Week 1 against Middle Tennessee and featured another set of star performances from quarterback Jalen Milroe and defensive back Terrion Arnold.
Before the Tide plays its final game this season at Bryant-Denny Stadium against Chattanooga, let’s close the book on a productive trip to Lexington. Here’s how we rated Alabama.
Alabama outscored the Wildcats, 444 yards to 253. Behind Milroe (280 total yards) and Kobe Prentice (74 yards and a touchdown), the Tide scored touchdowns on its first three possessions. Milroe bought some time by once throwing an ill-advised interception in the second quarter, but overall he felt in control of the pace of the game.
It was also another banner day for Milroe, who was on the bench in week three. He became the third Tide player to produce six touchdowns in a single game and the first to split it evenly with three rushes and three passes. He now has 10 touchdowns in the last two weeks.
UK running back Ray Davis is averaging 100.3 yards per game with nine total touchdowns. Although he scored two against Alabama, a game the Wildcats offense was never able to get going. He carried the ball 12 times, the longest being a 6-yard gain. He finished with 26 total yards as Alabama, playing without two defensive starters — Deontae Lawson (ankle) and Jaylen Key (quad) — stifled Kentucky on his senior day.
Arnold forced two turnovers, a fumble ultimately returned by Caleb Downs at the goal line and a diving interception in the second quarter. With reinforcements late in the fourth quarter, the traveling Million Dollar Band contingent chanted “two more points” as Kentucky had the ball deep in its territory, wanting a safety. Add three more bags and it was a good day at the office.
Special teams: B
Replacing injured Ja’Corey Brooks (shoulder), Kendrick Law and Roydell Williams were helpful on kickoffs. Both produced over 50 yards on two attempts. James Burnip also knocked down the field twice with good punts. Kicker Will Reichard didn’t get a chance to score his first field goal since the Tennessee game, but converted all seven points.
The lower grade, compared to the others, comes via the punt return game. For the second time this year, Kool-Aid McKinstry botched a punt that gave an anemic offense an easy setup for points. Nick Saban defended McKinstry on this point, but McKinstry’s struggles against rugby style or “radical punts,” as Saban called it, was a sticking point.
According to Milroe and Arnold, coaches placed wooden rat traps around Alabama football facilities to remind players that it was a trap game. While it’s a textbook cliché, it’s the latest example of Saban and his team finding the right buttons to push to keep Alabama on track. From the growth during the season of LANK friends Milroe and Arnold, to defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe and linebacker Jihaad Campbell and much more, UA helps its players excel.
Alabama has become a national title contender after a 1-1 start. The Kentucky game showed his biggest improvements. Winning a division title should be celebrated, even in Tuscaloosa, as the focus will likely shift to UA’s Senior Day next weekend, the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25 and a Dec. 2 date with Georgia to Atlanta.