TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Jalen Hurts threw two third-quarter touchdown passes to Calvin Ridley and Ronnie Harrison scored on a 55-yard fumble return in No. 1 Alabama’s 34-6 victory over Kentucky on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame a week full of potential distractions and a slow start to run away from the Wildcats (2-3, 1-2).
The Hurt and Ridley Show took over the second half, hooking up on scoring passes of 10 and 19 yards and plenty in between. Hurts passed for 262 yards, including 173 in the third quarter.
Ridley gained 174 yards on 11 catches, both career-highs.
“Challenged them a little bit at halftime,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I didn’t think we sort of imposed our will in the first half how we could have or should have or wanted to, however you want to say it.”
Freshman tailback Joshua Jacobs rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in his first start with Kentucky native Damien Harris playing a limited role after spraining his right ankle last week against Kent State.
The performance came two days after star linebacker Tim Williams’ arrest on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol without a permit. Williams was suspended for the first half and still had three tackles for loss and a sack.
Backup quarterback Blake Barnett left the team and withdrew from school this week, too.
None of that mattered much in the final three quarters, though Kentucky did hold a 3-0 lead for half the first quarter.
Hurts couldn’t produce any big plays in the passing game until the opening drive of the third quarter. He rolled toward the right sideline and found Ridley wide open for a 46-yard gain. Two plays later, he did the same thing and again Ridley was open — this time in the end zone.
Kentucky: The Wildcats scored first but couldn’t get anything going offensively, getting outgained 488-161. Stanley “Boom” Williams came in averaging 116 yards a game and finished with 22 yards on nine carries.
Alabama: The defense sparked the Tide when Hurts and the offense were misfiring early in the passing game. Alabama had nine sacks. Harris logged only two carries and big-play receiver ArDarius Stewart sat out the second straight game with a knee injury.
NON-OFFENSIVE TDS: Rashaan Evans stripped the ball from quarterback Stephen Johnson and Harrison scooped it up and sprinted to the end zone in the second quarter. Alabama leads the nation with five defensive touchdowns and seven non-offensive TDs.
“I saw the ball come out and somebody else fumbled with it, and the ball was right there on the ground so I just picked it up and ran,” Harrison said.
JOHNSON’S NIGHT: Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson was 13 of 22 for 89 yards, lost two fumbles and was sacked four times.
“We wanted to attack the ball, especially on the quarterback,” Saban said. “We thought he was a little loose with the ball.”
Alabama could lose some ground at the No. 1 spot with No. 5 Clemson and No. 3 Louisville clashing in a much more meaningful game.
Kentucky hosts Vanderbilt in a matchup of SEC East teams in need of a win.
Alabama visits No. 20 Arkansas to begin a three-week stretch against ranked teams.
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(8:52) Austin McGinnis kicks it through the uprights from 45 yards out, giving the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
(1:15) Adam Griffith evens the score with a 44 yard field goal, score is 3-3.
End of 1st Quarter
(9:50) Joshua Jacobs runs in from 1 yard out to give Bama their first touchdown. Bama leads 10-3.
(6:56) Ronnie Harrison returns a fumble 55 yards for another Bama touchdown. Bama leads 17-3.
(10:58) Jalen Hurts throws to Calvin Ridley for a 10 yard TD. Bama up 24-3.
(4:31) Jalen Hurts to Ridley again for a 19 yard TD. Bama widens the gap 31-3.
End of 3rd Quarter
(14:51) Adam Griffith kicks a 24 yard Field Goal to bring Bama’s lead to 34-3.
(5:09) Austin McGinnis kicks a 30 yard Field Goal to cut the deficit down, Bama leads 34-6.
End of Game