Kentucky had just crossed over into Alabama territory, and the Wildcats were trailing by a single touchdown almost midway through the second quarter.
Facing a third-and-five situation, Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson was poised to make a play, but before he could even attempt to do so, Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans was in his face. Evans sacked Johnson for a loss of three yards, and in the process, Evans also freed a fumble.
Talk about a double whammy.
“I was just trying to make something happen, and I didn’t hold the ball like I should,” Johnson said.
It didn’t stop there, though. Alabama defensive back Ronnie Harrison quickly swooped in to pick up the fumble, ran the ball 55 yards down the field and scored a touchdown.
The Crimson Tide took hold of a lead that would only grow as it defeated Kentucky, 34-6, on Saturday for its homecoming game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“That was certainly a big play in the game because we were struggling a little bit on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “The score was 10-3, and they were hanging in the game. So that was a big momentum swing for us.”
Saban had been watching Johnson and noticed he was a little too loose with the ball. So, Saban decided to attack, and it worked. He was proud his players cashed in on the opportunity presented to them.
Harrison’s fumble recovery marked Alabama’s 53rd non-offensive touchdown under Saban since 2007. It was the seventh in this season alone, the third one produced out of a fumble.
“That’s what we work on – trying to strip the ball out – every day in practice, and that will be something that we show the other players,” Saban said. “When you do it correctly, you certainly have a chance to get the kind of consequences that you like.”
The Crimson Tide defense has also scored off two interceptions.
Expect those overall numbers to increase as the season progresses because Alabama has stolen the national lead for defensive touchdowns.
Against Kentucky, however, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen led Alabama defensively with eight tackles and a sack. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton followed with the same number of tackles, but no other stats. Then, along with his fumble-turned-touchdown highlight, Harrison had seven tackles.
“That’s probably one of the most physical games I’ve play since I’ve been in college,” Allen said. “I got to give Kentucky a lot of credit, a lot of credit. They played a hell of a game.”
Along with Evans, linebackers Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson also forced a fumble out of Johnson. Anderson recovered his. Williams did not.
Following his run-in with law enforcement, Williams didn’t play a single snap during the first half, but he took the field after halftime to finish the game with four solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Saban confirmed after the fact that the one-half suspension was the extent of Williams’ punishment after having been arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a permit on Thursday.
Regardless, Williams was out on the field and made a difference. In fact, the entire Alabama defense made a difference. It didn’t allow the Wildcats one touchdown, just two field goals. It limited Kentucky to only 72 yards on the ground over the course of 36 carries.
Throughout its five games so far this season, the Crimson Tide has held its opponents to just 342 rushing yards. Its defense is solid.
“I think our ability to make plays, give our offense a chance and put pressure on the ball is what separates us,” Harrison said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports