TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Alabama discovered how precarious life
at the top can be, sidestepping what could have been another
top-five upset with a bruising drive and a late field goal.
Glen Coffee rushed for 218 yards, Leigh Tiffin kicked a 24-yard
field goal with 2:12 left to put the Crimson Tide up 10, and No. 2
Alabama survived and advanced in the national title chase with a
17-14 win over Kentucky on Saturday.
Playing with its best national ranking in 15 years, the Tide
survived three turnovers, a season-high 10 penalties, and a
sputtering passing game a week after racing to a 31-0 halftime lead
The outcome, at least, was something coach Nick Saban could be
happy with after top-five teams Georgia, Florida and Southern
California were toppled last weekend.
"We're certainly happy to win but we also put on a clinic today
for how to keep the other team in the game," Saban said.
Coffee and the Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) pounded
out a 15-play drive from their own 17-yard line to set up the
clinching field goal. Coffee gained 57 yards on nine carries on the
drive, which consumed 8:10.
Tiffin, who had missed two earlier kicks, drilled this one for a
17-7 lead, and the points proved necessary. John Parker Wilson had
converted a fourth-and-1 with a quarterback sneak from the Kentucky
46 to keep the drive alive.
The Wildcats (4-1, 0-1) weren't done yet. Mike Hartline hit
DeMoreo Ford streaking down the right sideline for a 48-yard
touchdown pass with 40 seconds left. The blown pass coverage had
Saban fuming on the sideline over another mistake in a day full of
them for the Tide.
"They never gave up and we never put them away, and we had some
chances," he said.
Kentucky's onside kick attempt went out of bounds to give
Alabama the ball and the game.
The Tide's final scoring chance came after Coffee nearly lost
his second fumble inside the Kentucky 10, but the ball dribbled out
of bounds after the Wildcats had a clear shot to recover and
Alabama kept possession.
"We had it and then we didn't," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks
said. "That's kind of the way the game went for us."
Cornerback David Jones had the ball squirt from underneath him.
"I tried to just fall on it and secure it, but it just slipped
out," he said.
'Bama continued to dominate 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 'Bama 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 Tide ran for 282 yards.
"When I think about what I've done today, all I think about is
the fumbles," Coffee said. "The fumbles come to mind first. The
fumbles affect the whole team."
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.
Outgained 253-60 in the first half, the Wildcats forced two
turnovers in the third quarter and made it look easy on their first
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.
The Tide had continued its string of fast starts, pushing its
season first quarter advantage to 88-0 with a pair of touchdowns
for the team's only points until the final minutes.
Coffee raced 78 yards up the middle, going virtually untouched
and managing to just outdistance Kentucky's pursuing defenders.
Then Hartline lost control of ball as he was cocking his arm for a
throw and Rolando McClain scooped it up at Kentucky's 4 for a
touchdown, the third scored by Alabama's defense this season.
"I think we had a legitimate shot at them, but they made those
plays and we didn't," Brooks said.
It could have been worse but Tiffin missed a field goal, Coffee
lost a fumble at Kentucky's 6 and the Tide failed to score on two
other trips across midfield in the first half.
No. 2 ALABAMA 17, KENTUCKY 14
Kentucky 0 0 7 7-14
Alabama 14 0 0 3-17
Ala-Coffee 78 run (Tiffin kick), 9:48.
Ala-McClain 4 fumble return (Tiffin kick), 1:02.
Ky-Lyons 26 pass from Hartline (Seiber kick), 5:49.
Ala-FG Tiffin 24, 2:12.
Ky-Ford 48 pass from Hartline (Seiber kick), :40.
First downs 12 15
Rushes-yards 20-35 49-282
Passing 241 106
Comp-Att-Int 20-42-1 7-17-1
Return Yards 14 57
Punts-Avg. 10-43.2 6-43.2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 9-58 10-92
Time of Possession 24:15 35:45
RUSHING-Kentucky, Locke 6-28, A.Smith 7-18, Dixon 3-10,
Allen 1-(minus 2), Hartline 3-(minus 19). Alabama, Coffee 25-218,
Ingram 11-66, Upchurch 5-19, Maze 1-1, Team 1-(minus 2),
Wilson 6-(minus 20).
PASSING-Kentucky, Hartline 20-42-1-241. Alabama,
RECEIVING-Kentucky, Locke 8-81, Lyons 6-63, Grinter 3-29,
Adams 2-20, Ford 1-48. Alabama, J.Jones 3-52, N.Walker 2-30,
Coffee 1-15, Stover 1-9.