DeVonta Smith breaks SEC career touchdown reception record, Alabama dominant in win over Kentucky
After three weeks of preparation, the Alabama Crimson Tide crushed Kentucky 63-3 on Saturday night. The Tide may have started off a little sluggish after three weeks off but ended up playing one of their most complete games of the season.
Stars were shining all over the field for Alabama on both sides of the ball, but none brighter than receiver DeVonta Smith for the Tide. A star for Bama the past three seasons and the current one, Smith broke a prestigious conference record for an SEC receiver.
Smith broke the SEC career receiving touchdown record on Saturday night against Kentucky. Alabama had actually been struggling up to this point being up only 7-3 against the Wildcats in the second half. Smith’s 10-yard touchdown reception put the Tide up 14-3 which started the Tide’s path to domination.
However, it also put him at 32 career touchdown receptions. The previous SEC record was 31 receptions, which was shared between Florida’s Chris Doering and another Alabama alumnus, Amari Cooper.
After the game, Smith said about breaking the record, “It is certainly a blessing just to have my name among the greats that came through the SEC and this school.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban had some fond words to say about Smith after the game, as well. He started off by congratulating Smith in his opening remarks, adding, “I don’t think there is anybody that holds up the core values of the program and reinforces those core values to other players on the team any better than (Smith) does. First of all, he sets a great example and has a great work ethic.”
The rest of the team played great as well, but Saban acknowledged that it took a while to get them going.
“So, I think we got off to a little bit of a slow start,” the Tide’s head man observed. “The energy, intensity, and the attention to detail early on in the game is not what we wanted it to be. I think we played better and better as the game went on. I was really pleased with the way our players responded.”
Alabama caught a break in the first half when Kentucky settled for a field goal that would make the game 7-6, but the snap sailed over the holder for a 38-yard loss and resulted in a turnover for Kentucky. Alabama then capitalized on the turnover. After that, the Crimson Tide never looked back, scoring 56 unanswered points on the Cats.
Adjustments for Bama came more so on the defense, which was struggling in the first quarter.
When Saban was asked about the adjustments after the first few productive drives that Kentucky put together in the first quarter, he replied, “A lot of the things where they had runs on us, you know 10 to 12-yard runs were that we miss-fit the gaps and made some mental errors on shifts and motions.”
Kentucky was running a lot of misdirection and motions that were clearly only in the game plan as eye candy to distract Alabama defenders away from wherever the ball was actually going. In the first quarter, Mark Stoops’ Wildcats were succeeding in pulling defenders away from where the ball was going early, but the Tide defense adjusted really fast and was not fooled for the rest of the night.
“I think as the game went on the players got more used to the rhythm of the game,” noted Saban. “The shifts, the motions, making the adjustments, we were making the adjustments on the sidelines. When we fixed those things, we started to play much better and did a better job on third downs. We started to play better in the second quarter.”
Alabama star tight end Miller Forristall was out of the game because of an ankle sprain and a little shoulder issue, according to Saban. He said the tight end could have played today, but they didn’t want to risk it unless they needed him.
Alabama probably would rather keep him healthy and save him for the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship.
In his post-game interview, Saban was asked why he thought DeVonta Smith returned for his senior season when he could have left for the NFL.
“He came back another year because he wanted to have a great productive year and get a little bit bigger and stronger and improve his draft status,” Saban responded. “I certainly think he is demonstrating that in a really, really positive way this year.”
Alabama will host rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl next weekend as a heavy favorite. The game that all of Alabama, and much of the nation, will be watching will air on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CT.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.