LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Alabama State had high hopes for its first game against a Southeastern Conference opponent and early on Saturday night the Hornets showed Kentucky they wouldn't back down.
Unfortunately for ASU, it couldn't sustain its intensity or execution after an Isaiah Crowell's 32-yard touchdown run and the result was a 48-14 drubbing and the end of a six-game losing streak.
"I thought our guys came out with some great energy and enthusiasm," Hornets coach Reggie Barlow said. "The first quarter, the first couple of plays on offense we had some positive stuff going on. But this is a game of emotions (and) there were some penalties that kind of set us back.
"You can't do that against any opponent, let alone an opponent in the SEC."
Alabama State (6-3) entered the game rolling on both sides of the ball. Besides averaging 42 points per game during their surge, the Hornets were stifling opponents and entered the game with 80 tackles for a loss and 38 sacks.
Their defense managed to sack Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow twice in the first quarter — a stand that helped set up Crowell's TD — and post three overall. But ASU also allowed Whitlow to break off an 88-yard run on the game's second play, the first of two scores on a night he ran 10 times for 101 yards.
Whitlow hurt the Hornets mostly with his arm, completing 16 of 26 attempts for 186 yards and two more touchdowns. His 287 combined yards were just 10 fewer than ASU gained all night.
"Sometimes we were able to contain him, but he was able to get outside against us," linebacker Kourtney Berry said of defending Whitlow. "We started out fast and then we became less disciplined. ... After that he was able to get free."
ASU's lack of discipline as it tried to establish itself didn't help. The Hornets were nailed for four personal fouls early on that either hurt their progress or helped Kentucky's; the Wildcats gained 422 yards.