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Graphing the Tide at Kentucky: Bama was better *for the whole game*

Maybe for the first time this season, the Tide had the advantage from start to end (and especially on 3rd down)

NCAA Football: Alabama at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Bama at Kentucky Box Score

Stat Alabama Kentucky
Stat Alabama Kentucky
Points 49 21
Total yards 444 253
Rush yards 159 95
Rush attempts 39 24
Yards per rush 4.1 4.0
Pass yards 285 158
Pass attempts 16-25 17-31
Yards per pass 11.4 5.1
1st downs 23 11
3rd down eff 7-11 3-11
4th down eff 0-0 0-1
Turnovers 2 2
Tackles 25 34
Sacks 3 0
Penalties-Yds 6-64 4-19
Possession 32:06 27:54

The box score isn’t terribly surprising, with the victorious (and pretty dominant) team having advantages in total yards, YPP, 1st downs, and (importantly) 3rd down conversions.

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Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

In the advanced metrics section, we finally got an SEC game that looks like this: the Tide offense outperformed Kentucky’s offense from wire to wire, posting very solid efficiency advantages even after the game was well in hand. Furthermore, Jalen Milroe and co. were very explosive, posting 20%+ XRs for the majority of the game (save garbage time), which was more than double what the Wildcats were managing.

Kentucky did show some life in the third quarter, despite being down by several scores: when your cumulative Success Rate is hanging out in the 20%’s, though, all it takes is a few successful plays to start dragging it out into a still-bad-but-more-respectable range.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

For the Tide, passing was the ticket early (at least after a few early fails), with six explosive passes in the first half that actually happened in little bunches (3 and 3, with a few interspersing rushes). The passing SR cooled in the 2nd quarter after a particularly bad sequence, but then settled in to “respectably above average”, along with the rushing efficiency, for the remainder of the game.

On the Wildcats’ side, rushing was attempted, but not that well ... and eventually, not that often. UK was down quick (and down big) so they had to lean on the arm of QB Devin Leary more than they probably intended to. That didn’t turn out to be very successful, with their passing game coming out of the gate DOA and then hovering in the upper 20%s SR (bad) only after some moderate success.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

Alabama had balance ... kind of to a shocking degree. That line really hovered right at 50% for about 2.5 quarters there starting in the 1st.

As I said earlier, Kentucky was down so fast that they lost the balance in their playcalling in the 1st half, and ended up chucking it ~70% of the time before they waved the white flag late in the 4th quarter.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

In a result that’s become something of a theme this season: Alabama had a slight rushing advantage by efficiency, but had a big advantage in the passing game (both in explosiveness and in efficiency).

In another nod to “balance,” the SRs for both phases of Bama’s game were very close, with the passing game holding the efficiency edge (but delivering much more on explosiveness).

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Alabama’s Play Map shows some pretty consistent success, with some especially effective spurts coming early, then in the 2nd, then a lot of solid rushing to bleed out the clock late. And the Average Extra Yards line is consistently above zero here, being very high for the first quarter and a half before coming down to earth while Alabama held a big lead.

Kentucky’s looks terrible by both counts: they had a spurt or two of success around the halftime mark, but otherwise were dead as a doornail and delivered well below 0 Average Extra Yards throughout the game.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Like I said, Kentucky had some life in the 3rd quarter (statistically speaking, at least) but delivered really poor efficiencies in the other quarters. That gap in the 1st quarter alone — including a zero count for explosive plays from Kentucky — represents enough points for Bama to basically have won the whole game.

Alabama’s lines are nice here, with consistent performance across quarters, with each quarter having above average SRs. Aside from (most) cupcakes and the LSU game, it’s been really rare to see that from Alabama this season. Kudos, men.z

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

Looking at the quarters chart above, and then this drives chart one, the Tide’s late game efficiencies strike me: Alabama has usually bled some efficiency during “clock burning” garbage times, but they were actually putting in some long drives late, with four efficient 7-to-9-play drives rounding out this chart.

There were some doldrums mid-game with those shorter drives, but a 3-and-out is a very different thing than a 5-play drive with 60% XR and SR (that is, where every successful play was also explosive).

Kentucky did get some first downs here and there to put up a handful of not-putrid drives ... but otherwise their chart is terrible.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

Alabama won on every down, and delivered above-average SRs on each one. But I feel like we’re seeing another echo of Bryce Young here, with our 3rd down efficiency notably outperforming the other downs. Similar to this team’s other games, some of that was 3rd-and-short (we’ll see that in the Distance chart), but seeing the higher explosiveness line here, a lot of this was passing on 3rd and longer.

Meanwhile, the Tide defense got more comfortable on each down in the series, letting a little slippage happen on first downs but then really clamping down on 2nd, 3rd, and especially 4th (0-for-1) to keep Kentucky punting.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

Once again, Alabama outperformed its opponent in the Red Zone (this even happened in the loss to Texas, though only on a technicality given that Bama was barely even in the Red Zone that game).

But ... the Tide performed almost as well outside of the Red Zone, and between the 20s they had a huge advantage over Kentucky. If anything the Wildcats actually had better Red Zone efficiency than Alabama’s other opponents this season.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

In yet another continued theme, Alabama is efficient from short yardage! Though we didn’t deliver any explosive plays from there, which suggests we were rushing to convert those. Per the earlier downs chart, we did have high XRs on 3rd down, so some of those must have come from 3-6 yards or 10+ yards.

Overall, it’s a solid chart that speaks to an ability to perform respectably from any distance, which is similar to the other breakdowns from this game. Alabama was basically better across every distance.

Top Rushers

Jase McClellan eventually got the most carries by one, but then we saw the 2nd week in a row with Jalen Milroe as effectively our most efficient rusher (plus an explosive one in there for good measure). And otherwise this was a notably platooning effort, with five rushers getting at least five attempts.

Jam Miller had a bit of a letdown after his breakout against LSU: he had the attempts (six) but a very low efficiency on those. Meanwhile, Justice Haynes (!) makes his first major appearance in this chart with six rushes of his own, and at much higher efficiency. It turns out that Justice rushing efficiently in the 4th quarter was Alabama’s late-game garbage time efficiency rally (you can see it in the initial efficiency line charts), which is awesome to see out of this promising freshman tailback.

Top Passers

Milroe was good again in this one, and he didn’t even need to make that many attempts to rack up seven explosive plays (and enough points to come out of the game after the 3rd quarter). Milroe did throw an INT, but otherwise he managed to accrue more explosive and successful plays than UK QB Devin Leary while attempting about a ten fewer passes.

Top Receivers

I considered a few players for the feature image: Caleb Downs for his tacklers total, Jalen Milroe for another balanced performance, or even Justice Haynes for his aforementioned garbage time contributions.

But this chart answered the question for me: Kobe Prentice was the leading contributing receiver in a long list of Tide receivers from this game, with his two explosive plays, and one more successful one, for a 75% catching SR. No Tide receivers caught more than four balls in this game, but Kobe is nonetheless the leader here.

Otherwise, we’re seeing another continued trend of a bunch of one-off explosive plays: there are seven Alabama receivers that recorded an explosive catch in this game, and only Prentice recorded more than one. At this point I have to start giving the credit to OC Tommy Rees, who seems to like to draw up “surprises” for big passing plays before shelving that given receiver for the rest of the game (only to “surprise” with another new face next).

Alabama tacklers at Kentucky

Team Player SOLO TOT
Team Player SOLO TOT
Alabama Caleb Downs 5 7
Alabama Jihaad Campbell 2 5
Alabama Terrion Arnold 4 4
Alabama Kristian Story 2 4
Alabama Kool-Aid McKinstry 2 3
Alabama Trey Amos 1 3
Alabama Justin Eboigbe 1 3
Alabama Quandarrius Robinson 1 2
Alabama Malachi Moore 1 2
Alabama Damon Payne Jr. 1 2
Alabama Kendrick Blackshire 1 2
Alabama Tim Keenan III 1 2
Alabama Jaheim Oatis 0 2
Alabama Chris Braswell 0 2
Alabama Justin Jefferson 1 1
Alabama Jamarion Miller 1 1
Alabama Jeremiah Alexander 1 1
Alabama Tim Smith 0 1
Alabama Dallas Turner 0 1
Alabama Trezmen Marshall 0 1
Alabama Jah-Marien Latham 0 0

And we have tacklers data again this week! I mentioned that I almost put Caleb Downs in the image feature on this article ... and I would’ve if Getty or USA Today had a better picture of him in action during this game. I guess it’s hard to get “positive” pictures of free safeties, given that they most often appear in photos of receivers making huge catches.

Anyway, Caleb deserved the image feature he unfortunately didn’t get, with his team-leading five solo tackles of seven total tackles.

And the other leading tacklers in this table are, interestingly, a bunch of defensive backs. Normally you wouldn’t like that — DB tackles often indicate large gains, like they did against LSU — but here the were apparently more often the result of short passes or run support.

At least LB Jihaad Campbell appears high in the list to break up the defensive backs, then Justin Eboigbe, Tim Keenan, Q Robinson, Damon Payne Jr., and Kendrick Blackshire make their contributions further down the list.

Whew: this felt more like graphing the Tide of old. And I’ll take it! We should see more charts in this general vein next weekend vs. Chattanooga, but then I fully expect chaos (but hope for the best) against the Barn the following week.

Roll Tide and enjoy it in the meantime.