A dropped pass by a wide-open Kenny Bell forced the Crimson Tide to punt on its first possession, while back to back fumbles by Kenyan Drake and T.J. Yeldon ended drives deep in Kentucky territory.
Slow starts such as that one have plagued the Crimson Tide this year. Alabama has outscored opponents 52-21 in the opening quarter this season, but throw out the 45-3 win over Georgia State, when the Tide was ahead 21-0 after a period, and the first quarter margin drops to 31-21. Alabama is outscoring teams 92-3 in the second period.
“It’s definitely a slow start (against Kentucky),” wide receiver Kevin Norwood said Monday. “We were moving the ball real well, and we knew that we had to stay confident. Those guys fumble the ball, it was a big deal but we couldn’t get down. We still had a lot more ball to play. We just have to make sure they know that you basically can’t do that. You need to pick it up, let’s go.”
But the lack of points don’t paint the entire picture in Tide coach Nick Saban’s opinion.
“I think it’s a total misconception that we didn’t start the game well,” Saban said. “Like most people in the world, you people are all result-oriented. Because we moved ball down the field three times in a row and we dropped a pass on third down and fumbled it twice – once on the 5-yard line and once on the 15-yard line or whatever.”
Not including its fourth drive that carried over into the second, Alabama gained 135 yards and easily moved the ball on the Wildcats before mistakes doomed possessions.
“My question is how did we get there to start with?” Saban asked. “Did we play horribly bad to move the ball down the field to get it to the 5-yard line? So, was it a slow start or was it just a matter of two turnovers and a dropped third down that we stopped ourselves in three circumstances? I didn’t think we started off slow -- I just didn’t think we finished the drives like we needed to to cash in.”
The Tide rebounded with points on every possession for the rest of the night and accumulated a season-high 668 yards of total offense.
Defensively, Alabama held the Wildcats to 30 yards in the first quarter and just 170 yards of total offense. The Wildcats didn’t cross midfield until the 10-minute mark in the third quarter.
“I think we went three-and-out several times on defense,” Saban said. “So I’m not sure they started slow, either.”
Last year, Tide outscored opposing teams 153-26 in the first quarter. A smiling but serious Saban wasn’t focused on the numbers or end result on Monday.
“Like everybody in the world, if you don’t get the results, don’t get the immediate self-gratification – instant coffee, instant tea, instant everything – it’s bad,” he said. “Well, the bad things were the fumbles and the dropped balls. So you have to be technical about what was bad. Just because we didn’t score the first three times we had the ball even though we moved the ball down the field, doesn’t necessarily mean it was all bad. I fully expect that would be your reaction.”