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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Whitlow’s big game sparks Wildcats win,
Mark Stoops wins second game of tenure

Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow broke away from the Alabama State defense on the second play of the game, scoring an 88-yard touchdown. (Photo by James Pennington)

Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow broke away from the Alabama State defense on the second play of the game, scoring an 88-yard touchdown. Kentucky won 48-14. (Photo by James Pennington)

 

Not that anyone was counting, but:

 

“It’s been, like, 56 days since the last win,” Jalen Whitlow said Saturday.

 

Whitlow was a big reason why Kentucky could reset the counter after Saturday’s 48-14 win over Alabama State. His 88-yard touchdown run on the second play of scrimmage set the tone, and the Wildcats got their second win under coach Mark Stoops with a 48-14 victory over Alabama State.

 

Kentucky (2-6, 0-4) won the opening kickoff over their FCS foe and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Ryan Timmons bobbled the kick, and he was tackled at the UK 6-yard line. Whitlow completed a six-yard pass to Timmons on the first play, and on the second play, Whitlow broke it open to the left, crossing back right and recovering from a slight stumble near midfield to run away with the uncontested score.

 

It tied the second-longest rush in school history. The longest rush is still a 91-yard touchdown rush by Harry Jones in 1951. The other two 88-yard touchdown rushes in school history were by Bill Randsell in 1960 and Bernie Scruggs in 1970. Scruggs’ run did not go for a touchdown.

 

It was designed as a pass play, but Whitlow’s first read was not open. He scanned the field, and he saw an opening to take off. He did. As he sprinted down the field, Whitlow said he couldn’t help but think about his recent ankle injury and the week of practice he mostly missed because of it. His conditioning was down, and the only thing that was keeping him from what he called his personal longest touchdown “maybe since little league” wasn’t an Alabama State player, but his own fitness.

 

“I was like, ‘Man, I hope they don’t catch me. I hope Demarco’s still blocking,’ ” he said.

 

Whitlow finished with perhaps his most impressive day as a Wildcat, which is not surprising considering the opponent—an FCS opponent, only Whitlow’s second career start against such a team—and the stakes. Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown challenged throughout the week, essentially testing Whitlow’s mettle while dealing with a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder and a mostly healed (but still a little sore) left ankle, which he sprained Oct. 12 against No. 1 Alabama. Whitlow finished 16-of-26 for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

 

He also rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.

 

“It was good to see him,” Stoops said. “I thought he stepped up and accepted that (challenge) and wanted to go out there and play the whole game if need be. I felt like he pulled it down and ran around and created and made some plays when we needed him, so that was good to see.”

 

Mark Stoops won his second game as Kentucky coach Saturday, a 48-14 victory over Alabama State. (Photo by James Pennington)

Mark Stoops won his second game as Kentucky coach Saturday, a 48-14 victory over Alabama State. (Photo by James Pennington)

The night at Commonwealth Stadium was not as kind to Whitlow’s receivers. Javess Blue, UK’s top receiver, suffered an eye injury during warmups and did not play. He was throwing the ball around, not unlike the rest of his teammates during a typical warmup, and a ball hit him in the eye. “So that closed up and he couldn’t see out of it. Then I popped him in the other eye,” Stoops said, laughing. “He couldn’t see out of that one. So he had two black eyes.”

 

Alexander Montgomery caught his second career touchdown, and he suffered a left knee injury after landing awkwardly from a celebratory chest bump. He did not return to the game, and his status moving forward is unclear.

 

“That was really disappointing with Alex, and we’ll see,” Stoops said. “Hopefully it’s not serious, but I’m afraid it may be. Because he’s been solid all year and getting better for a young guy. To get that touchdown—we’ve got to learn to celebrate better.”

 

Ryan Timmons suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, and when he returned, he suffered a left ankle injury in the third quarter from which he did not return.

 

Junior tight end Steven Borden, a junior college transfer in his first season, had his first career touchdown reception in the third quarter, a streaking 38-yard reception over the top down the right sideline. Demarco Robinson recovered a Raymond Sanders fumble in the end zone to score in the first quarter, and Jojo Kemp had a rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

 

Kentucky finished with 422 yards of total offense compared to Alabama State’s 297.

 

Stoops said he won’t celebrate his second win too much, and how could he? He said he starts preparation for next week’s game against No. 10 Missouri on Sunday morning, and Saturday’s win lasted over 3 1/2 hours. Sunday morning was less than an hour away, technically.

 

But while the Wildcats were in the locker room collectively pressing the reset button, down from 56 days since the last win to zero, they embraced it while they could.

 

“We were starving for this one. We hadn’t had one in a while. We needed it.”

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