Self-inflicted wounds piled up to derail a promising start for Kentucky in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and those coupled with a listless second-half showing added up to another big victory for the nation's No. 1 team and the Cats' worst loss under head coach Mark Stoops.
Alabama defeated UK, 63-3, behind an exemplary showing by standout receiver DeVonta Smith, who during the game set a league record for career touchdown receptions (now 33). He racked up 144 yards and caught two touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, who improved to 7-0 three weeks following their most recent game.
Before Saturday, Kentucky's largest margin of defeat under Stoops was a 59-17 loss to Georgia in 2013, his first season at the helm. It was the program's worst loss to an opponent from the Southeastern Conference's West Division in school history.
Kentucky had multiple opportunities to apply pressure in the first half but couldn't score on two of its three red-zone trips after moving the ball effectively on the road. It settled for a field goal after giving up the game's first score and failed to even get three points on the next two trips, a blown snap and a missed attempt combining to undo the special teams' effort both times.
Kentucky's first drive ended with a mishandled snap that Terry Wilson recovered for a loss on third-and-6. Alabama returned a punt by Colin Goodfellow, starting in place of Max Duffy for the second straight game, to its own 45, before two big passes from one-time UK commit Mac Jones sandwiched a short run by Najee Harris to quickly get the Crimson Tide into the red zone; Harris rushed three straight times from there, getting six on the final run.
Wilson hit Keaton Upshaw over the middle for a 13-yard pickup, followed by an 8-yard gain by Kavosiey Smoke to open the Cats' second drive. Smoke picked up the first down on a short gain before Josh Ali picked up 33 yards on an end-around to get into the red zone. A video review and acceptance of an offside penalty set Kentucky up with second-and-5 at Alabama's 10-yard line, but a hold by Landon Young on the next play backed up the Cats to the 20. Wilson hit Ali for a 5-yard gain but there was a miscommunication between the two in the end zone on third down. Matt Ruffolo connected on a 33-yard field-goal attempt.
Harris gained 25 yards on a pass from Jones to start the Tide's second drive. J.J. Weaver and Jordan Wright combined to stop the gains from there; Wright nearly reeled in an interception on a crossing route on 3rd and 10 to force an Alabama punt.
First downs by Rose and Ali quickly got Kentucky past midfield. A substitution infraction pushed it backward, but DeMarcus Harris drew a pass-interference flag to get the yards back and then some. Upshaw hauled in a 17-yard pass from Wilson to get to Alabama's 20-yard line. Ali and Rose then combined again for a first down to the Alabama 7, but UK had to settle for a field-goal attempt; a high snap went all the way to Alabama's 42, where Ruffolo pounced on it.
Jones connected on consecutive passes, the second a beautiful ball to Jahleel Billingsley, for a 27-yard gain. Defensive tackle Phil Hoskins was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty, and soon after Smith hauled in a 10-yard touchdown soon to break the SEC record (previously 31) and swell the Crimson Tide's lead to 14-3.
A 21-yard connection between Wilson and Isaiah Epps got the Cats to Alabama's 41. Wilson found Upshaw for a 14-yard gain to get past the 30, but the Cats eventually settled for another field-goal attempt; a 42-yard try by Ruffolo went wide right. It was the last positive trip for the Wildcats, who in the second half went on to gain 22 yards over seven offensive series while giving up five scores.
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