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October 3, 2009
Notebook: Kentucky went after linebackers
LEXINGTON _ The University of Alabama football team went with the same plan for trying to replace sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower after he was lost for the season with a knee injury near the end of the first quarter against Arkansas last week.
Senior Cory Reamer started at weakside linebacker, with senior Eryk Anders at strongside linebacker and sophomore Courtney Upshaw at Jack, the hybrid end/linebacker spot.
"The first three games we played teams that really spread the ball out and playing Sam I didn't get out there much and then today it was 50-some snaps or whatever it was," Reamer said. "It was a huge difference. It's what we had to do, we had a lot of adversity last week when we lost Dont'a, and to respond the way we did today was a big step."
With essentially three linebackers in new spots the Wildcats finished with 133 rushing yards on 38 carries while Alabama switched in and out of its nickel defense all game. Their longest carry was 18 yards, but early on Kentucky controlled the clock.
"They had the same style of offense as Arkansas, but they had a lot more success running the ball," Reamer said. "They proved it today. It's definitely something we're going to have to work on. They tried to isolate the linebackers who had moved to different positions, and they tried to run right at us.
"The first half we did a good job of not letting them into the end zone, we stopped them when we needed to, but it's definitely something we're going to have to get ready for next week (at Ole Miss) because they do the same thing."
Reamer had six tackles including one for a loss, while each of the other three linebackers had an interception. Anders had three tackles and a sack, Upshaw had four tackles and a sack (to go with the 45-yard interception return for a touchdown), while McClain had 12 tackles, a forced fumble and his tip to Anders.
"Most guys don't have linebackers that are 258 (pounds) and run like that," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. "He's a big time player and I know they took a blow when they lost Hightower, but it looks like McClain took up the slack for him a little bit. He's a man-child out there. He's a great football player. He'll be playing on Sundays along with some of those guys around him."
Senior end Brandon Deaderick, who hails from nearby Elizabethtown, had a big grin on his face after the victory, but like his teammates thought the Crimson Tide could have played better.
"They didn't respect us physically," Deaderick said. "They said that we weren't that tough and we didn't prove it in the first half so we had to come out and change their minds."
Deaderick, who was shot a little over a month ago then missed practice time to attend his grandmother's funeral, started and was credited with two tackles including one for a loss.
"It felt great, happy to be back out there with the ones, rolling. Going against my man (left tackle Zipp Duncan), I went to high school with him, to middle school with him, it was pretty fun."
When asked who won that matchup, Deaderick couldn't help himself: "I don't have to say me, of course, but the film doesn't line. You'll have to see that for yourself."
No. 1 vs. No. 3
Kentucky thought it matched up better against No. 3 Alabama than No. 1 Florida, which it lost to last week 41-7.
"I think Alabama, defensively, is just as good as Florida, (might) be better," Brooks said. "Offensively, they're a totally different style. I thought, other than the one run they popped, the one where we had it plugged and he jumped into the middle and popped it down the gut on us for the long touchdown.
"I thought we did a decent job on the running game overall. I thought they made some real good plays on us in the passing game. The tight end hurt us big time today, whether it be linebacker or safety coverage they hurt us with the tight end as much as anything in the passing game. They're a great football team and I'd expect we'll be seeing those two teams playing in the conference championship game."
For the first time in Alabama history, the Tide eclipsed 30 points in each of the first five games of a season. The last time Alabama did so five times in a season was 1979. Only twice have the Tide scored 30 or more points in more than 5 consecutive games, 1971 (seven) and 1975 (six).
Kentucky kicker Lones Seiber set a career-best with his 49-yard field goal and then tied it on the final play of the first quarter. Meanwhile, running back Derrick Locke became the 31st player in Kentucky history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards (1,068).
True freshmen who made the trip: quarterback A.J. McCarron, running backs Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, wide receiver Michael Bowman, offensive lineman Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, defensive lineman Kerry Murphy, linebackers Nico Johnson and Tana Patrick, and defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick and Rod Woodson.
Sophomore cornerback B.J. Scott, who has not appeared in a game yet, and sophomore defensive lineman Nick Gentry (flu) both made the trip, but running back Demetrius Goode (hyperextended knee) did not.
Team captains were senior Javier Arenas, junior Greg McElroy, McClain and senior Brian Selman.
Travis Reier contributed to this report