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November 2, 2013
Cats rout Alabama State for much-needed win
Mark Stoops was unhappy.It's not that
His second win as a head coach -- Kentucky's 48-14 rout of Alabama State Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium -- gave him cause for some celebration. It just didn't leave him much time for it.
"It's a little late right now, isn't it?" Stoops said shortly after 11 p.m., after his football team had won a three-hour and 25-minute marathon. "That game felt like it went forever."
That wait for the final horn was nothing, though, compared to the Wildcats' wait for a win.
"Coach (Neal) Brown was telling us it's been 56 days since we won a game," wide receiver Jeff Badet said.
And that had been long enough.
In the weeks since Kentucky (2-6) blasted Miami (Ohio), it had lost five straight games, three by at least two touchdowns. It had show improvement in competitive losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State, but had little to show for it.
On Saturday, though, the Cats got out of the gate quickly - quarterback Jalen Whitlow scored on an 88-yard touchdown run 42 seconds into the game -- and never left the game in doubt.
Though Alabama State (6-3) tied the game at 7-7 midway through the first quarter, UK led 31-7 by halftime and 48-7 late in the third quarter when Whitlow hit tight end Steven Borden on a 38-yard touchdown toss.
"I think any time or any profession that you're in you want to get a reward, because you're working, you're working you're working, and you're working for wins," Brown said. "You're working for playing time, wins, all those type of things. And I think you want to see your work pay off."
Kentucky took its prize against the Hornets, but it wasn't all spoils for the victor.
The Cats left the game with some health concerns, particularly at wide receiver, where three players were injured on Saturday, including two on fluke plays (Javess Blue was hit in the eye with a ball in pregame warmups and Alex Montgomery inured a knee celebrating his second quarter touchdown).
And even in a silver-lining win, Stoops found a few dark clouds. The Cats gave up 297 yards of total offense and struggled to find consistency in the passing game offensively.
"I'm not trying to be believe me, we know any win is a win," Stoops said.
"I'll take one more than anything, but it just feels like we have a lot of work to do. It feels like we're still just not executing the way we can, and that's frustrating."
But Stoops admits he's "always nitpicking."
His players' enthusiasm was somewhat less tempered. Though their celebration was subdued, the Cats made no bones about their desperation to snap a five-game losing streak.
"We needed it," Whitlow said. "We need it every week. We've been working hard, man."
And though the win came at the expense of a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, it didn't feel any less sweet to Kentucky.
"It feels great," wide receiver Jeff Badet said. "We can go out and actually celebrate a win, not losing and putting our heads down."
And even their worn-out coach could see the good in that.
"It's been a while," Stoops said. "So any time you get a win, you have to appreciate it."