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October 12, 2013

Cats look ahead after blowout loss to Alabama

Kentucky can't have a do-over, can't rewrite the first act of its football season.

The Wildcats can't undo what No. 1 Alabama did Saturday night in a 48-7 demolition at Commonwealth Stadium.

But there are second acts.

The Wildcats' looks more manageable than the first, and so in the minutes after the Crimson Tide rolled through Lexington, Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) already was looking to pen a fresh ending.

"We want to go to a bowl game, and we got six opportunities to do that," running back Raymond Sanders said. "If we're able to play hard, play like we're capable of, I think we can do that. It has to be fresh. We can't dwell on this first half of the season. We got to look at it as a 0-0 season. Got six games to go. How you want it to end?"

At the midway point of this tale, the hero is down on his luck.

Alabama (6-0, 3-0) shrugged off a slow start and overpowered the Wildcats on Saturday. Kentucky battled to a scoreless entering the second quarter -- no team this season had held the Crimson Tide without points in the first -- only to see Alabama score 24 unanswered before halftime.

"We got beat up out there tonight," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.

Alabama racked up 668 yards of total offense while holding UK to a season-low 170. For the first time in school history, the Tide had both a 300-yard passer (AJ McCarron was 21 of 35 for 359 yards and a touchdown) and two 100-yard rushers (T.J. Yeldon carried 16 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, Kenyan Drake 14 times for 106 carries and two scores) in the same game.

The Cats lost starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow to a first-quarter ankle sprain and he didn't return. The offense managed one touchdown drive in the third quarter, when backup QB Maxwell Smith hit wide receiver Javess Blue with a 30-yard scoring strike.

"That's not acceptable no matter who we're playing," Stoops said. "We know how good Alabama is, but we could do some things better. We didn't do our best tonight. That's why I'm disappointed."

But maybe there's time for a turnaround.

The Wildcats get a week off before a Thursday night date at Mississippi State on Oct. 24. That gives them time to heal, physically and emotionally, following a brutal four-game stretch against Top 20 opponents Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.

"We've got to coach better," Stoops said. "They've got to play better. We've got to hold ourselves and this program to a higher standard. We've got to play better. And we'll do that. We'll clean up our mistakes, and we will compete for the second half of this season. I expect our players to bounce back and prepare the right way and play hard."

The path from here isn't easy. After a road trip to Mississippi State, the Cats host undefeated Missouri. There are games remaining at Vanderbilt and Georgia.

But the road won't be as rocky as it's been.

"The first half of the season's over with," linebacker Avery Williamson said. "We got to enter the second half, and I feel like these games are winnable and we can still become bowl eligible. We got to win five games to be bowl eligible. We just got to really grind and dig and try to get some wins."


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