UK head to Tuscaloosa to face No. 1 Alabama


Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones celebrates a tackle during the Wildcat’s game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Commonwealth Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Chris Angolia

Coming off of two straight wins, including a conference win over South Carolina, UK Football now faces what could be considered the most difficult task in college football, facing No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The 4-0 Crimson Tide are coming off a 49-0 shutout victory over Kent State Saturday and will be looking to continue their dominance over the Cats who are building their own momentum after back to back wins.

In the win over South Carolina last week, the UK defense emerged for the first time all season holding the Gamecocks to just 10 points, but the Tide pose a much stiffer challenge for the Cats’ defense. Led by freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, Bama’s offense has put up 38 or more points in each of its four victories. 

“(His game) is different (than former Alabama quarterbacks),” Head Coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “I’ve played against (offensive coordinator) Lane (Kiffin) and some of his offenses for a long time and they are different in their approach but the same in a lot of ways in that it starts with being extremely physical. Big backs, big line.”

The strides that the UK defense has made over its last six quarters, allowing just 17 points, has been big for the Cats from a confidence perspective especially after being torched in the first two weeks of the year. 

Linebacker Jordan Jones leads the UK defense against a very physical offensive line for the Tide. Jones leads the SEC in tackles with 43 which ranks third nationally. Jones’ Crimson Tide counterpart is senior linebacker Reuben Foster who has registered 136 total tackles in his career, 29 of those have come this season.

With the defense facing such a challenge come Saturday, it will be the offense that has to deal with the biggest strength of the Crimson Tide, their stout defense. That group, led by Foster, is allowing and average of just 280 yards of total offense per game. 

UK’s offense will be in its second straight game with JUCO transfer Stephen Johnson starting at quarterback and the one clear thing with the new look offense has been the ability to run the ball. However, that ability will be challenged by a defense that has registered 24 tackles for loss over four games.

“Well it’s a great challenge you know, the number one team in the country and you get to go on the road and it’s exciting,” Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Tuesday. “Any time you go out and play the No.1 team in the country you’re going to have to play your best football.”

The Cats’ offense is a group that has played well with the exception of their only road game which was the thumping they took in Gainesville at the hands of Florida. 

Heading into the hostile environment of Bryant-Denny Stadium which holds over 100,000 people will be no easy task for the UK offense and the talented players on the Bama defense don’t make anything easier. Wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas knows what it is like to be a part of a No. 1 team in the country from his days as a player at Miami thus respects the talent that faces the Cats.

“They are good, they are really good. You know you sit down and you are watching a pro team,” Thomas said Tuesday. “We are looking for holes but these guys are professionals and they do a really good job, they are very well coached and they have some really good players. So to answer the question, yes they are good.”

While things will not be easy, this game could be good for the Cats to use as a measuring stick for the rest of the season especially coming off two straight victories.