Oct. 3, 2008
Alabama 28, Kentucky 14 (Sept. 22, 1973)
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide needed a second-half pick-me up.
Freshman speedster Willie Shelby obliged.
One week after dismantling California, 66-0, in the season opener at Legion Field, the Crimson Tide found itself in a 14-0 hole against Kentucky before Shelby came to the rescue.
After a sluggish first half that saw Alabama miss three field goals and commit two turnovers, Shelby returned the second half kickoff 100 yards to jump-start the Crimson Tide to a 28-14 comeback win in front of 54,100 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
Alabama dominated the first quarter running 21 offensive snaps to Kentucky's nine plays (3 three-and-outs), but two missed field goals and a fumble at the UA 33 kept the Tide off the scoreboard.
After the Wilbur Jackson fumble, Kentucky moved 30 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead. Sonny Collins scored from the 4-yard line on third-and-goal and Ron Steele's extra point put the opportunistic Cats in the lead with 14:37 left in the first half
The Wildcats marched 61 yards in 12 plays on its next possession to take a 14-0 lead. Facing a third-and-13 from the UA 14-yard line, UK quarterback Ernie Lewis fired a touchdown pass to Jack Alvarez as UK extended its lead with 6:56 left in the first half.
Alabama drove to the UK 10-yard line on its next possession but lost its second turnover of the game when quarterback Richard Todd fumbled on third down. UA got the ball back in the final 30 second and moved from the UK 48 to the 33 before Greg Gantt missed a 51-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the half. It was UA's third missed field goal attempt in the game.
The second half was a completely different story, beginning with Shelby's electrifying kickoff return. Shelby took the second half kickoff at the goal line and raced 100 yards for the Tide's first score of the game. Bill Davis' extra point cut the UK lead to 14-7 with 14:44 left in the third quarter.
The Crimson Tide scored on its next two possessions and seized control of the game with 21 third-quarter points.
Following a UK punt, Alabama drove 59 yards in 11 plays to tie the game at 14-14. Halfback Paul Spivey picked up three yards on a crucial third down play from the UK 41. Jackson capped the drive with a 6-yard run and Davis' extra point tied the score with 7:30 left in the quarter. Jackson ran the ball six times for 26 yards on the game-tying drive.
After another three-and-out by the Tide defense, the UA offense took over at its own 25-yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown in five plays. Gary Rutledge's 45-yard pass to Jimmy Sharpless and a face mask penalty against the Wildcats gave the Tide a first down at the UK 12-yard line. Halfback Calvin Culliver ran for six yards on first down and Rutledge covered the final six yards to put the Tide up 21-14 with 4:24 left in the quarter.
Alabama put the game away on its first possession on the fourth quarter, taking a 28-14 lead. The Tide took over at the UK 31-yard line following a 16-yard punt and scored in four plays with Shelby scoring on a 2-yard run.
The Crimson Tide offense ran 65 times for 293 yards in the win over Kentucky. Jackson led the UA ground attack with 12 carries for 48 yards and one touchdown. Spivey and Rutledge carried the ball nine times each for the Tide, who used 13 different running backs in the win.
While the Alabama offense was the story of the second half, the Tide defense was also superb in the win. The Wildcats managed only one first down and was held to 51 yards total offense in the second half. Woodrow Lowe led the UA defense with 12 tackles, followed by Greg Montgomery with nine stops and Randy Hall with eight tackles.