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Kentucky Grades
Posted by Woody Woodruff on Sunday October 13 2013 @ 04:36PM CDT
[ The Commissioner's Blog ]

There really is no way around it. Sometimes, you just have to state the obvious. This is one of those times. No amount of wit or word-play is appropriate. Facts are facts, and, as John Adams famously said, ďFacts are stubborn things.Ē

So here it is: The fact of the matter is, Alabama cannot afford to have five dropped passes and two lost fumbles against any opponent on the rest of the schedule.

The Tide offense could have scored 69 points against the helpless Wildcats Saturday night. Instead, on a night when offensive records were being set, the score was tied at zero after the first quarter of play. Ball security, and finishing drives will no doubt be high on the list of coaching points for this coming week.

OK. Enough with the negativity. Letís look at the bright spots, and there were plenty of them as the Tide absolutely crushed Kentucky in a game that was not nearly as close as the 48-7 score would indicate.

AJ McCarronís passing is a good place to start: With 359 yards, AJ set a personal record for passing yards in a single game. His career total of 7306 passing yards is only 618 short of the Tide record holder, John Parker Wilson [7924] and the season is only half over.

Saturday nightís game was the first time in Tide history that a quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game while two running backs each gained more than 100 yards net rushing. In all of Tide football history, two backs have rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game only 16 times. But 3 of those 16 games have come in the last 8 games.

The victory in Lexington was the 17th consecutive win by the Tide in a game played outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium. In other words, other schools should not invite Alabama to visit for homecoming.

Cade Foster scored a career high 12 points in Saturday nightís game, kicking two field goals and converting on six PATs.

Considering all of this, I understand why Coach Saban answered as he did when leaving the field at half time. Going into the game, Saban had said the Tide needed a dominating performance; with the dropped passes and lost fumbles was he dissatisfied with his teamís failure to dominate the first half? Saban gave the reporter a medium sized dose of The Bug Zapper and explained that there is a difference between dominating-which we were doing offensively and defensively-and taking care of the football and finishing drives, which we had not done in the first quarter.

Domination notwithstanding poor ball security and failures to finish makes The Commissionerís job a bit harder this morning. But that too, is just one of those stubborn facts. So hereís how I grade the game:

Offense: C+ Alabama earned 35 first downs, converted 10 of 14 third downs, gained 668 yards of total offense [299 rushing] and possessed the ball for 35:59 of game time. The Tide had 8 drives that gained more than 40 yards [66, 43, 88, 70, 79, 70, 80, 57] resulting in 6 TDs and 2 FGs. The down grade is based on the first three drives of the night [32, 51, 52] that produced a punt [following a dropped pass on third down] and two lost fumbles, both deep in UK territory.

AJ completed 21 of 35 pass attempts for 359 yards and a TD. Five of the incomplete passes were drops [two by Kenny Bell, and one each by Fowler, Yeldon and Drake]. Cooper arguably could be dinged for a drop on a ball that had his name on it, but it was a hard catch. OJ Howard also had a ball hit his hands in the end zone, but there was good coverage on the play, and the DB was credited with a breakup.

Kevin Norwood caught 4 passes for 81 yards and a TD. DeAndrew White gained 80 yards on 4 receptions, while Amari Cooper caught 3 passes for 64 yards. Eight different receivers caught passes and AJ completed three passes for more than 30 yards [42, 31, 42].

Yeldon gained 124 yards on 16 rushes, for an average of 7.8 yards/rush and scored 2 rushing TDs. Kenyan Drake carried the ball 14 times, gained 106 yards [7.6 yds/rush] and scored twice. Altee Tenpenny scored a rushing touchdown and gained 21 yards on 5 carries. Derrick Henry gained 16 net yards on 3 rushes.

Defense: A+ Kentucky is a bad football team, and avoided a shutout due to referee assistance. Nevertheless, the Stop Troops deserve a top-tier grade. UK gained only 170 total offensive yards [94 rushing], held the ball for only 24:01 and converted only 4 of 12 third downs. Wildcat running backs gained an average of only 2.8 yards per rush and the Kentucky passing game gained only 4.2 yards per attempt. All of which translated into 10 meaningful offensive possessions that produced 8 punts, 1 TD and 1 turnover on downs.

CJ Mosley led all defenders with 7 tackles, followed by AíShawn Robinson, the Fearsome Freshman, who was credited with 6 tackles [2 for lost yardage]. Darren Lake, made 5 stops as did Jarrick Williams. A word about Lake: at 6-3, 324, the sophomore defensive lineman may well be the biggest thing every to come out of York, Alabama.
The Defense turned in 5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 28 lost yards [4 sacks] and broke up 4 pass attempts. Strangely missing from the lineup was freshman corner back, Eddie Jackson. The talented freshman saw no playing time. [I have not seen anything about him being in Coach Sabanís doghouse, but Iíve been a bit preoccupied this week.] In his place, sophomore Bradley Sylve made his first start. The 5-11, 180 lb DB from Port Sulphur, LA was credited with 2 tackles and a breakup, but was victimized by an iffy interference penalty on what appeared to be just excellent, tight coverage.

Sylve is a graduate of South Plaquemines High School. Is there a North Plaquemines High?

Special Teams:
Place Kicking: A+ Cade Foster has come into his own. He was good on two FG attempts [25, 20] and 6 PATs.

Kickoffs: A- Five of Alabamaís 9 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Although Tide kickers averaged 64.7 gross yards per kick, coverage did not seem as tight as in previous games this season, and the net average was only 39.2 yards/kick. Alabama returned UKís two kicks for an average of 24 yards, while kick coverage allowed UK to average 26 yards/return.

Punting: A Cody Mandell punted once for a touchback. The Alabama return game had 3 return opportunities which Christion Jones converted into 52 yards [30 long].

Coaching: B+ The coaching grade also reflects the impact of the turnovers and dropped passes. The Tide was penalized 7 times for 65 yards. After one of those penalties-a false start by Huntsville freshman OL, Grant Hill [6-6, 307]-Saban suffered a head-explosion and made sure that Hill knew it. Hillís performance improved noticeably. However, later in the game, Saban was unmoved when a Tide defender was flagged for a personal foul that wiped out the results of a sack and set Kentucky up for what turned out to be its only score of the night. It could well be that Saban was too busy searching the rule book to find the penalty for being wrestled to the ground and having your helmet ripped off and, not finding it, had no basis for offering the offending Alabama player any words of coaching wisdom.

The participation report lists 63 players who saw action against Kentucky and TJ Yeldon led the team with 154 all-purpose yards. Kenyan Drake was second with 150.

Around the league: Georgia lost 41-26 to Missouri, but the Tigers lost their star QB, James Franklin for the remainder of the season. UGA still has the head-to-head tiebreaker over South Carolina, but if the Yardbirds are higher ranked at the end of the season, will that trump the Dawgs?

Florida and LSU battered each other in a game that exposed both teamsí true identities: Florida has no offense, and a stout defense. LSU is strong on both sides of the ball. Tigers 17. Gators 6.

TAMU needed a last minute FG to beat Ole Miss 41-38. What does that say about both teams? We know that A&Mís defense is suspect, and the Rebsí 38 points demonstrates that fact. Johnny Manziel was out of the game temporarily with a no-contact knee injury. He returned with the aid of a knee brace to lead the game-winning drive. Moral of the story: as Manzeil goes, so goes A&M.

Arkansas was dismantled by South Carolina 52-7. Steve Spurrier, ever the classy guy, had this to say in the post-game presser: ďI do feel badly for Arkansas. Thatís no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that.Ē Well, I suppose thatís a fact, Coach, but maybe it is one so obvious that you donít need to rub the other teamís nose in it.

The Hogs come to Tuscaloosa this weekend. Alabama has better players than Arkansas. Thatís a fact. And it is a fact that Alabama is better coached. But remember what I wrote at the beginning of these Grades: The Tide cannot drop passes, lose fumbles and still expect to win its future games.
Those are the facts that matter the most.
The Commissioner

< Georgia State Grades | Arkansas Grades >

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