for this game

Coffee, defense help Alabama survive

Oct 5, 2008 - 1:09 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Alabama suffered a letdown but survived.

Glen Coffee rushed for 218 yards and a touchdown and the defense was dominant as No. 4 Alabama avoided an upset with a 17-14 victory over Kentucky on Saturday in a Southeastern Conference matchup.

"We're certainly happy to win, but we also put on a clinic today on how to keep the other team in the game," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We didn't finish drives. We fumbled the ball inside the 10-yard line, we missed a field goal, so we left 10 points on the board."

Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC West) was coming off an upset of then-No. 3 Georgia last week and did not play its best in this one, despite a quick start.

Coffee exploded for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Crimson Tide an early 7-0 edge with 9:48 left in the first quarter. The defense took over from there.

"We want to be able to go out in any game and control the running game," Coffee said of the rushing attack, which gained 282 yards. "When we can establish the run, it sets the tone for us.

"The offensive line has been a huge factor for us all season long and they played great again today."

Linebacker Rolando McClain capitalize on Wildcats quarterback Mike Hartline's error with just over a minute left in the opening period. Hartline had the ball slip out of his hands, and McClain scooped it up and raced in for a 4-yard score.

"I blitzed, saw the ball, and just went for it," McClain said. "I knew it was a big play and my first touchdown. I was happy more for my team than myself."

Alabama would have been hard-pressed to win this contest had it not been for its stout defensive effort in the first half.

Before the break, the Crimson Tide did not let Kentucky (4-1, 0-1 East) get on the scoreboard. The Wildcats were held to 60 total yards, 1-of-8 on third down and four first downs in the first half.

"The defense did a good job in the first half and (we) scored on defense, which was good," Saban said.

Kentucky tried to rally after the break, as Hartline found Dicky Lyons on a 26-yard score to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 5:49 left in the third quarter.

"It is the defensive's job to stop them as an entire unit," McClain said. "We played hard, but we could have turned out a better performance. We have a bye week coming up, so we will take advantage of the time to fix our mistakes."

Alabama caught a huge break when Coffee burst for a 28-yard rush before fumbling at the tail end of the play.

"I'm thankful the offensive line was able to block and control the line of scrimmage the way they did," Coffee said. "I can't enjoy this as much as I want to because I put the ball on the ground. I still have things to work on."

With the ball rolling toward the goal line, multiple Kentucky players had a chance to recover it. But the ball rolled out of bounds at the Wildcats 1.

That play eventually set up Leigh Tiffin's 24-yard field goal that gave the Crimson Tide a 17-7 lead with 2:12 to play.

"The disappointing thing is we knew we were playing a really good football team and we knew we needed to play our best game to have an opportunity to win," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.

Hartline passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard strike to DeMoreo Ford with 40 seconds left that provided the final margin.