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Series Preview: Alabama vs. Kentucky



Oct. 2, 2008

By Barry Allen,

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama and Kentucky will meet for just the 36th time in history this Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and despite the low number of games played between one another, the series has produced its share of memories.

Alabama and Kentucky first met on Nov. 17, 1917, with Coach Thomas Kelley's Crimson Tide squad posting a 27-0 win in Lexington.  The Tide and Wildcats met every year from 1922-47, with the exception of 1943 when the Tide did not field a team due to World War II.  Since then, UA and UK have met just 10 times.

This Saturday's game will be the first meeting between the two schools since the Tide's 45-17 win in Lexington on Oct. 9, 2004. The game will also mark the first meeting in Tuscaloosa since Alabama's 27-17 win on Sept. 13, 2003.

Alabama's winning percentage over Kentucky (.931) is the second-highest against any Tide opponent with at least 20 games played. The Tide's highest winning percentage is against Howard (now Samford), where UA is 20-0-1 (.976) in 21 meetings.

Alabama leads the all-time series, 33-2-1, including a 19-0-1 record in the state of Alabama.  The Crimson Tide is 8-0 in Tuscaloosa, 7-0-1 in Birmingham and 4-0 in Montgomery.

After the Tide's series-opening win in 1917, UK answered with a 6-0 win in Lexington in 1922.  The Tide rebounded with a 16-8 win in Tuscaloosa the following year and began a 31-game unbeaten streak against the Wildcats. Alabama posted a 30-0-1 record against the Kentucky from 1923-96.

Alabama's 21-6 win over Kentucky in 1927 was the Tide's final football game at historic Rickwood Field, which still stands today in Birmingham as the oldest professional baseball stadium.  In 1931, Alabama's national championship squad eked out a 9-7 win over the Wildcats in Tuscaloosa.  Alabama's 26-6 win over Kentucky on Oct. 29, 1938 gave coach Frank Thomas is 62nd career win, making him Alabama's all-time winningest coach.  The Crimson Tide saw its 16-game series winning come to an end with a 7-7 tie at Legion Field in 1939.

The Crimson Tide was back on the winning track in 1940 and reeled off 14 straight wins through the 1996 season, including seven shutouts.

Alabama posted four straight shutouts from 1940-45 and then got a monster performance from Harry Gilmer to post a 60-19 win in Louisville in 1945.  Gilmer had six rushing attempts for a then school-record 216 yards, including a 95-yard TD run in the win.  Gilmer's 36-yards per rushing attempt that afternoon are still the highest in school history.  The 95-yard run is now second in the UA record books, while the 216 rushing yards are the seventh-most by a Tide back. 

Alabama posted two more wins in 1946 and 1947 before the series was halted.  The two wins in 1946-47 came against UK head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who would become Alabama's head coach in 1958 and start a 25-year run that has been unmatched in college football annals.  The Tide won 21-7 in Montgomery's Crampton Bowl in 1946 and posted a 13-0 win in Lexington in 1947.  The captains of those two UK teams - Phil Cutchin (1947) and Bill Moseley (1947) - would later serve under Bryant as UA assistant coaches.

The two teams renewed their rivalry on Sept. 23, 1972 after a 25-year hiatus in the series. The Crimson Tide posted a 35-0 win at Legion Field, the first meeting in Birmingham since that 7-7 deadlock in 1939.  The next year, Alabama journeyed to Lexington for the first time since 1947.  After an impressive 66-0 season-opening win over Cal, Alabama found itself down 14-0 at halftime to the Wildcats.  Willie Shelby returned the second half kickoff 100 yards to ignite the Crimson Tide in a 28-14 come-from-behind win.

Top-ranked Alabama gave Coach Bryant his 300th career win with a 45-0 victory over UK at Legion Field in 1980. The following year, Alabama needed four Peter Kim field goals to escape Lexington with a 19-10 victory in 1981. 

Alabama needed another Bluegrass miracle in 1988, scoring 24 fourth-quarter points for a 31-27 win. Vince Sutton's 3-yard TD pass to Gene Newberry with 10 seconds left in the game capped the wild comeback.  Alabama won with defense in 1989, beating UK, 15-3, in Tuscaloosa.

Dennis Riddle scored four touchdowns in the Tide's 35-0 win in 1996 in Tuscaloosa.  The following year in Lexington, UK pulled off a 40-34 overtime win in Commonwealth Stadium, its first win over Alabama since 1922.

Alabama has won the last two meetings, including a 45-17 decision in Lexington 2004.  Tyrone Prothro had a 100-yard kickoff return in that win for the Tide.