TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A career day for junior running back Glen Coffee was enough to overcome 10 penalties and three turnovers for Alabama on Saturday, sending the No. 2 Crimson Tide (6-0 overall; 3-0 in the SEC) past Kentucky (4-1; 0-1 SEC), 17-14, at Bryant-Denny Stadium
Coffee rushed 25 times for 218 yards, the highest individual rushing yardage total since Shaun Alexander’s 291-yard performance against LSU in 1996, and the first time an Alabama back has had more than 200 rushing yards since 2004. The total is the sixth-highest in a game in Alabama history. In all, Alabama gained 282 yards on the ground.
Coffee and the Tide (6-0 overall, 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference) pounded out a 15-play drive from their own 17-yard line in the fourth quarter to set up a clinching field goal. Coffee gained 57 yards on nine carries on the drive, which consumed 8:10, giving Alabama a 10-point lead with 2:12 remaining. Kentucky answered when Mike Hartline hit DeMoreo Ford streaking down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left. Kentucky’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds to give Alabama the ball and the game.
Alabama continued its dominance in the series, moving to 34-2-1 overall and 20-0-1 in the state of Alabama. Kentucky was looking for its second huge upset in two seasons after beating No. 1 LSU in triple overtime last season. Coffee had 25 carries, including a 78-yard touchdown, for the best rushing output for a Crimson Tide running back since Shaun Alexander gained a school-record 291 yards against LSU in 1996. Kentucky came in allowing just 73 rushing yards a game and hadn’t given up a TD on the ground. The Tide ran for 282 yards.
Hartline was 20-of-42 for 241 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Alabama’s Wilson was just 7-of-17 for 106 yards and was intercepted once and sacked three times.
Coffee busted out of the gate for Alabama, rushing for 101 yards in the first quarter alone against a Kentucky defense that came into the game as the nation’s fifth-best, giving up just 50 yards per game on the ground. Coffee’s early dominance included a 78-yard touchdown on Alabama’s second drive of the afternoon to give the Tide an early 7-0 lead. The touchdown run was Coffee’s second of the year of more than 75 yards. Against Arkansas, he broke an 87-yarder, the longest of his career.
Alabama extended its lead to 14-0 on a 4-yard fumble recovery runback by sophomore linebacker Rolando McClain after Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline fumbled near his own end zone. The score was Alabama’s fifth non-offensive score of the year, which leads the nation. Penalties and turnovers played a large part in containing the Alabama offense until two minutes left in the game, when junior Leigh Tiffin kicked a 24-yard field goal to give Alabama a 17-7 lead.
Outgained 253-60 in the first half, the Wildcats forced two turnovers in the third quarter and made it look easy on their first scoring drive. Hartline dumped a pass over the middle to Derrick Locke, who scampered for a 36-yard gain. Dicky Lyons Jr. took a short slant pattern 26 yards for a touchdown on the next play to make it 14-7 with 5:49 left in the third quarter.
Hartline had just 66 yards passing before that drive, and Kentucky had gone three-and-out on five consecutive possessions. Kareem Jackson then picked off Hartline’s underthrown pass after the Wildcats pushed across midfield.
Forty-nine of Alabama’s 66 total plays were rushing plays, with Wilson completing 7-of-17 passes for 106 yards with an interception. Freshman Julio Jones was Wilson’s top target in the game, catching three passes for 52 yards. In addition to Coffee’s rushing total, freshman Mark Ingram carried the ball 11 times for 71 yards and junior Roy Upchurch had five carries for 19 yards.
The Alabama defense forced two turnovers in the game and was led by McClain, who had 10 total tackles. Junior cornerback Javier Arenas was second with six tackles.