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A Tale of Two Halves: #3 Alabama at Kentucky

I'll be honest with you guys; as much as I want to hang our collective hats on the fact that we managed a three score victory on the road in the SEC despite not playing our best, the game really worried me. Looking at the box score, some of my fears were to put to rest while others were raised. Let's focus on the offense first:

Alabama 1st Half 2nd Half Total
1st Downs 6 12 18
3rd Down Efficiency 4-8 (50%) 4-9 (44%) 8-17 (47%)
4th Down Efficiency 0-0 2-3 (67%) 2-3 (67%)
Total Yards 146 206 352
Passing 85 63 148
Comp-Att 8-14 (57%) 7-12 (58%) 15-26 (58%)
Yards per Pass 6.1 5.25 5.7
Rushing 61 143 204
Attempts 14 28 42
Yards per Rush 4.4 5.1 4.9
Penalties 5-42 1-5 6-47
Turnovers 0 0 0
Fumbles Lost 0 0 0
Interceptions Thrown 0 0 0
Time of Possession 14:26 19:04 33:30

I'm perfectly willing to buy that the windy conditions changed our game plan in regards to the passing game.  We were remarkably consistent as far as attempts and completion percentage goes throughout the whole game, though the yards per pass fell off in the second half.  Needing some big plays at the end of the first half helped inflate the numbers while during the second half we were definitely taking a more methodical approach.

As consistent at the passing attack was through the whole game, the rushing attempts and yardage both increased dramatically in the second half, and after we struggled to run the ball against Arkansas it was a welcome sight.

3rd down conversions dropped off in the second half, but just looking at the numbers paints a bleaker picture than actually occurred.  Two completely meaningless third down plays on the last Alabama drive resulted in a fake FG on 4th down and a turnover on downs, so even though UK's defense held us we weren't exactly trying either.

Even though this was our worst offensive performance as far as total yardage goes, we shouldn't be too worried about the sky falling just yet.  We topped 30 points for the fifth straight game in a row, were halfway decent on third down, ran the ball effectively in the 2nd half (which kept their offense off the field and upped our time of possession significantly), significantly cut our penalties in the 2nd half, and were always consistent through the air despite some unfavorable conditions.

Defensively?  Well, that's another story:

Kentucky 1st Half 2nd Half Total
1st Downs 8 12 20
3rd Down Efficiency 1-7 (14%) 3-6 (50%) 4-13 (31%)
4th Down Efficiency 1-1 (100%) 1-1 (100%) 2-2 (100%)
Total Yards 99 202 301
Passing 31 137 168
Comp-Att 5-10 (50%) 12-22 (55%) 17-32 (53%)
Yards per Pass 3.1 6.2 5.3
Rushing 68 65 133
Attempts 24 14 38
Yards per Rush 2.8 4.6 3.5
Penalties 3-45 4-33 7-78
Turnovers 2 2 4
Fumbles Lost 1 0 1
Interceptions Thrown 1 2 3
Time of Possession 15:34 10:56 26:30

When UK really needed to move the ball in the second half, we let them do so, a troubling concept for a team that takes pride in it's defense and is trying to figure out just how much of an effect the loss of Dont'a Hightower is going to have on the rest of the season.  True, Kentucky presented a different challenge than any other team we've faced so far, but we were effectively manhandled up front by their power running game most of the game.  It was the first time we gave up over 100 yards rushing and over 300 yards of total offense, and even though we had some great take aways their passing game really took off in the 2nd half.  Yardage, attempts, and yards per pass all increased significantly, while they converted 3 of 6 on third down in the second half instead of 1 of 7 in the first.  Worse, we were unable to get off the field on 4th down and considering their time of possession dropped to only 11 minutes in the second half it meant they were moving the ball quickly and effectively.  If not for the two INTs, we might have seen a much different outcome.