Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 49-21 loss to No. 8 Alabama:
1. Field position kills the Cats. Against high-level foes, it’s been a rugged season for the Kentucky defense.
In losses against the four best teams UK has faced — Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and Alabama — the UK “D” has given up an average of 42.8 points a game.
That number is beyond disappointing in a program whose identity is built on defense.
Yet, the Wildcats’ defense did not get much help against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide scored seven touchdowns Saturday. Of those seven scoring drives, five started on the Bama 35-yard line or better. Two, including a 1-yard scoring drive that followed a Barion Brown lost fumble, began in UK territory.
Kentucky’s continuing punting problems, and long Alabama kickoff and punt returns kept the Kentucky defense in bad field position throughout the game.
2. Cats don’t take advantage of opportunities. By the time Kentucky went down 21-0 in the first quarter Saturday, the Wildcats had run all of four offensive plays from scrimmage.
Yet Kentucky had chances in the second quarter to get back in the game.
Down 28-7, UK had three straight possession in which it had the ball in Alabama territory.
Three straight times, the Cats came away with no points.
On a fourth-and-2 play from the Alabama 9-yard line, a Devin Leary pass was deflected back to the UK quarterback, who was then tackled at the 13.
After a Jordan Lovett interception of Jalen Milroe got the ball back for Kentucky at the 50-yard line, the Wildcats reached the Alabama 39 but the drive was foiled when Terrion Arnold intercepted a Leary pass at the 31.
The Kentucky defense forced a three-and-out, and UK drove the ball to the Alabama 45 in the final minute of the first half. But a false start on UK offensive tackle Jeremy Flax helped foil the Wildcats again.
3. Not taking advantage of home field. For the second straight season, Kentucky finished 1-3 at Kroger Field in SEC games.
In both 2022 and 2023, Kentucky won at least two SEC road games (this year’s Cats still have next week’s game at SEC East foe South Carolina for a chance at a third league road win), but were unable to parlay that into a winning overall conference slate because UK did not take care of its home field.
In Kentucky’s 10-win seasons in 2018 and 2021, UK went 3-1 at home each season and finished 5-3 overall in the league.
Simply put, Kentucky cannot ascend in the Southeastern Conference without performing better at home in league games than it has done the past two seasons.
4. More of the same vs. the Top 10. Kentucky’s loss to the No. 8 Crimson Tide gives Mark Stoops a 1-18 mark vs. teams rated in the Associated Press top 10.
Under Stoops, UK’s only victory to date over a foe rated in the top 10 came in 2021, a 20-13 upset of No. 10 Florida at Kroger Field.
Stoops is now 0-15 against SEC titans Georgia (0-11) and Alabama (0-4).
With division play in the Southeastern Conference ending after this season, Stoops finished 6-18 against the SEC West.
5. The “Saban-ic forces” prevail. Nick Saban is now 28-0 as Alabama head coach in games that kick off before 11:30 a.m. Central Time.
Saban and the Crimson Tide have now prevailed in 122 of 126 games they have played against unranked opponents.
At Alabama, Saban is now 47-5 vs. SEC East foes.
Twenty Kentucky players were recognized prior to the game as part of senior day ceremonies.
They were: Sam Anaele, Isaiah Beasley, Michael Bernard, Jase Bruner, Eli Cox, Marques Cox, Izayah Cummings, Ray Davis, Justice Dingle, Jeremy Flax, Luke Fulton, Ron Gaines, Jalen Geiger, D’Eryk Jackson, Ramon Jefferson, Devin Leary, JuTahn McClain, Clay Perry, Andru Phillips and Jack Varga.
Five other super-seniors played their final games at Kroger Field Saturday: Brenden Bates, Kenneth Horsey, J.J. Weaver, Chance Poore and Tayvion Robinson.
For its final home game of 2023, Kentucky wore blue helmets, gray uniforms with blue letters and numbers and gray pants.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) November 10, 2023
UK had not worn non-anthracite, gray jerseys since the 2015 regular-season finale — a 38-24 loss to Louisville.