Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and Nick Saban of Alabama chatted before Bama's convincing win over UK Saturday night.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – It started the way a Shock-The-World moment is supposed to begin.
Alabama won the toss. The Crimson Tide took the football. They didn't take it far. They gained 32 yards and two first downs. Alabama punted. The Kentucky crowd at Commonwealth Stadium stood and roared.
The next two Alabama possessions ended with a pair of Crimson Tide fumbles. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, the first time this season Alabama failed to score in the first quarter. Listen to the roar.
Perfect recipe to make the top-ranked team in college football blush? You bet. But Kentucky is not ready to deliver the goods – not yet. Mark Stoops needs more time and more players, especially to take on Number One.
Check the scoreboard: Alabama 48, Kentucky 7. Even after a miserable first quarter, the Crimson Tide covered the 27-point spread with gusto.
"There's nowhere to hide," Stoops said. "You've got to man up ... Overall, it just wasn't pretty ... There's a time when you're out there when it's not a good feeling. There's nothing magical you can call."
Kentucky (1-5) forced the Crimson Tide to wait until their fourth possession before they scored. But once the Tide kicked a 25-yard field goal less than two minutes into the second quarter, Alabama played like college football royalty, rolling over the Wildcats. They finished with 498 more yards and 22 more first downs than Kentucky.
A.J. McCarron looked like the quarterback who carved through Notre Dame in the BCS championship game last season, throwing for 359 yards, a career high. Kenyan Drake (106 yards) and T.J. Yeldon (124) ran like guys who will be in the NFL soon.
The Alabama defense performed the way a Nick Saban defense is supposed to perform. They limited Kentucky to four first downs in the first 30 minutes and only 21 yards passing. The Wildcats did not cross midfield until more than four minutes had been played in the third quarter.
In its last four games, Kentucky has been beaten by Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. All four teams were ranked in the Top 20 last week. The quartet has a combined record of 21-3.
Is top-ranked Alabama the best team in the group?
"I would say, 'Yes,' " UK defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "Just because of their size and their physicality and their athleticism all together."
"Yes," Kentucky halfback Raymond Sanders said. "They're the Number One team for a reason. Those guys, they're fast, they're physical. They play hard, they play disciplined ... We've got to look at those guys and see what they're doing right to help our program."
Is Alabama good enough to win its third straight BCS championship?
"Yeah, they're the best team in the country for a reason," UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "They coach well, they play well. They've got good players. It's a good program."
"They put you in all kinds of predicaments and had us off balance most of the night, like they do to a lot of people," Stoops said.
WHITLOW INJURED – Keeping quarterbacks healthy has been an issue for the Wildcats. Maxwell Smith was hurt earlier this season. Jalen Whitlow exited the game with an injury to his left ankle after UK's second series Saturday night when he was sacked at the UK 7.
Whitlow stayed down for several minutes and required assistance from two teammates to exit the field. He was taken to the locker room on a golf cart and replaced by Smith.
X-rays were negative, but Whitlow did not return. Stoops described it as a "pretty good," ankle sprain. Smith completed only 7 of 16 passes for 76 yards, 30 on one play.
"I think we're pretty banged up," Stoops said. "That bunch they beat us up pretty good."
FIRST TOUCHDOWN SINCE MANZIEL – Remember when Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M hung 42 points on Alabama on Sept. 14? Remember all the howling about the problems with the Crimson Tide defense?
Alabama went 14 quarters without allowing another touchdown. Kentucky did what Colorado State, Mississippi and Georgia State could not do – score a touchdown against Saban's defense.
Smith found Javess Blue alone in the middle of the Alabama secondary, and Blue did the rest, sprinting to a 30-yard touchdown with 7:05 left in the third quarter. Saban did not appear pleased.
BAMA'S LOUISVILLE CONNECTION – Alabama has nasty hitters across its defense, especially in the secondary. Louisville fans will recognize one name – Vinnie Sunseri, the strong safety.
He was a toddler living in Louisville when his father, Sal, was an assistant coach for Ron Cooper at U of L from 1995-97. Sunseri considered Louisville and Pittsburgh before signing with the Crimson Tide in 2011. His father now works at Florida State.
NO RETURN MATCH – The Wildcats will not return this game in Tuscaloosa next season. Kentucky's two opponents from the SEC West in 2014 will be Louisiana State (away) and Mississippi State (home).
THEN THERE WERE 14 – First Oklahoma stumbled against Texas. Then Michigan burped against Penn State. Then Stanford could not survive its trip to Utah.
The world of unbeatens in college football continues to thin. We're down to 14. Time to call the roll:
UP NEXT – Kentucky moves into its final off week of this season. The Wildcats play at Mississippi State on Thursday Oct. 24. The Bulldogs are 3-3 prior after defeating Bowling Green, 21-20, Saturday in Starkville. Mississippi State is 0-2 in the SEC, losing to Auburn and Louisiana State. MSU is also off next weekend. Kentucky returns to Commonwealth Stadium to play Alabama State Nov. 2.
"I think we're making progress," Stoops said. "I don't think anybody cares (about simply making progress)."