My first trip into Tuscaloosa was a memorable one. Having never been to Bryant-Denny Stadium, I was excited about seeing the Bama tradition in person. My experience didn't disappoint.
Alabama football fans are most compared to UK basketball fans: rabid and insatiable. Nearly every person I saw filing into Bryant-Denny was either wearing red, wearing that script "A" or sported a hounds tooth hat. It was pretty cool to see.
Situated in the heart of Tuscaloosa, next to a cemetery (presumably, where opponents go to rest), Bryant-Denny is the picture of a modern stadium. Unlike Tennessee's Neyland Stadium or LSU's Tiger Stadium, upgrades to B-D have hidden some of the original structure, which was built in 1929.
It's a massive building, but doesn't seem overwhelming. With a seating capacity of over 92,000, B-D shakes when the Crimson Tide, led by their $4 million coach, Nick Saban, takes the field.
The press box is adorned with images of Bama greats, including Bart Starr, Derrick Thomas, Cornelius Bennett, Johnny Musso and Kentucky native, Shaun Alexander. Eli Gold, the Cawood Ledford of Alabama sports, is getting off the elevator. Also the voice of NASCAR, Gold is going to be a busy man this week, with Bama on Saturday and Talladega on Sunday.
During the pregame festivities, a video tribute to Paul "Bear" Bryant and his best Bama teams plays on the stadium video boards. Every word from the Bear brings a resounding ovation from the Bama faithful. I feel like I'm attending a Sunday sermon. Of course, the Bear's name and face is everywhere throughout the stadium.
And how many bands have their own tribute video? Well, Alabama's Million Dollar Band does. It plays prior to the band taking the field for the first time. Wonder how that would play out at Commonwealth Stadium?
Offensive woes continue; Defense gives Cats a chance
UK's offense again sputtered. Two late second-half scores kept the Cats close, but UK couldn't sustain drives and give the defense much of a rest.
Despite playing more than half the game (35:45), the Wildcat defense was superb. Any questions of whether or not this unit is up to snuff were laid to rest on Saturday evening.
Yes, Bama ripped the Cats for more than 300 yards rushing, but the boys in blue yielded just one score. That's now four touchdowns (three offensive) scores allowed in five games. UK's defense is tops in the country in that category.
UK coach Rich Brooks acknowledged any Bama beatdown wasn't going to happen. "They didn't bloody our nose," he said. Instead, the Crimson Tide outlasted the Cats, in a bout that went the distance.
Take away Glen Coffee's 78-yard touchdown run and it's a 7-0 game at half.
Take away Mike Hartline's first quarter fumble, that Bama scooped and scored on, and the Cats and Crimson Tide are scoreless.
Hartline now has had three balls slip from his grasp as he attempts a pass. Brooks called that first quarter fumble the play of the game. Hartline agreed.
But Hartline got very little help from his surrounding cast. UK receivers continue to drop passes (3) and the running game was non-existant. UK averaged a measly 1.8 yards per carry against Alabama.
That allows teams to focus it's defensive pass coverages on double-teaming Dicky Lyons, Jr. Lyons took a bubble screen 26 yards to the house, pulling the Cats to within 14-7.
Alabama is said to possess the nation's best offensive line. I'd say UK's front four more than held its own against that line, showing grit and intensity reminiscent of some of Jerry Claiborne's best units. Myron Pryor had 1.5 sacks, as did linebacker Johnny Williams. UK's push from its defensive ends resulted in Bama being flagged for at least two holding penalties.
Ashton Cobb was back in uniform and was on the UK sideline during the Alabama game.
Following his arrest last week on charges he threatened and stalked his ex-girlfriend, Cobb was suspended from the university. Cobb has been reinstated and is being disciplined by the school. Rich Brooks didn't offer much insight, saying privacy issues surrounding Cobb's case prevented him from talking about his player. But Brooks said Cobb is available to play football.
David Jones TRIED to fall on the ball.
Glen Coffee's fourth quarter fumble could have given the Cats another opportunity to win the game. Jones was the nearest Wildcat and instead of trying to scoop it, as we've seen several players in the past try to do, Jones tried to fall on the ball.
He landed on the ball, but his shoulder pads caused the ball to squirt out and roll out-of-bounds.
Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones is the real deal.
The 6-foot-6 freshman had three catches in the first half. Two required tremendous athletic ability. Much ballyhooed after being named the nation's top receiver recruit, Jones didn't catch a single ball in the second half. Credit UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown, defensive backs coach Chris Thurmond and Trevard Lindley for making adjustments at halftime.
Speaking of Lindley, his three pass breakups increased his career total to 29. That's good enough to pass Antoine Huffman for the school's all-time lead.
Lones Seiber is walking a thin line.
After losing his job to Ryan Tylacka on field goals (Seiber still attempts PATs), Seiber may have hit rock bottom with coach Rich Brooks. After Mike Hartline found DeMoreo Ford for a 40-yard score with :40 remaining, the Cats had only to execute an onside kick to have a chance to win it.
Instead, Seiber's kick looked more like a Ryan Howard line drive, sailing into the Wildcats' bench area.
Seiber and the other kickers practice that play routinely. They are instructed to boot the ball in a downward motion, driving it into the ground. That results into the ball bouncing high into the air, allowing the kicking team to run under it for the recovery.
UK's kicking team never had a chance.
So now the Cats face South Carolina next Saturday. UK has never beaten a Steve Spurrier-coached team. But the Gamecocks are having offensive woes much like UK's. As we now know, UK"s defense is one of the nation's best and will give Spurrier fits.
If Joker Phillips and Co. can iron out a few wrinkles in their offense, the Spurrier-streak will end next weekend.
More importantly, the Cats will be 1-1 in league play and one game closer to becoming bowl-eligible.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.