By GARY B. GRAVES
Jalen Whitlow ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more as Kentucky ended a five-game losing streak with a 48-14 homecoming rout of Alabama State on Saturday night.
Whitlow overcame shoulder and ankle injuries to run for an 88-yard TD on the game's second play and a 2-yard score en route to 101 yards rushing on 10 carries. The sophomore quarterback also threw for 186 yards with TD passes of 38 and 6 yards respectively to Steven Borden and Alexander Montgomery, helping Kentucky outgain the Hornets 422-297.
Kentucky (2-6) ended with its second-best offensive performance this season, just what the Wildcats needed after a brutal stretch including four consecutive ranked teams. They also ended Alabama State's six-game winning streak in the first meeting between the schools.
The FCS Hornets (6-3) got a 32-yard TD run from Isaiah Crowell and a 68-yard TD pass from Daniel Duhart to Jamel Johnson.
Joe Mansour added field goals of 39 and 29 yards for the Wildcats, who scored on three straight first-half possessions to dash Alabama State's upset hopes against its first Southeastern Conference opponent.
Though the effort left Kentucky somewhat banged up physically, the Wildcats' second victory did wonders for their psyches.
The losing streak had the Wildcats wondering when their next win would come and even first-year coach Mark Stoops needed time getting over after last week's 28-22 loss at Mississippi State, where Kentucky's comeback bid died in the final minute at the Bulldogs' 29.
The Wildcats needed just two plays to prove they had moved on.
Whitlow, challenged by Stoops earlier in the week to play through his injuries, showed no signs of the ankle injury as he dodged several tackles en route to a TD that set off stadium sirens and tied for the second-longest run in school history.
Initially stunned, ASU regrouped to stop Kentucky's next drive by sacking Whitlow twice to push the Wildcats inside their 5. That set up the Hornets' 62-yard drive with Crowell showing the quickness that made him an all-SEC rookie selection in 2011 at Georgia before transferring to ASU.
Crowell's back-to-back runs for 10 yards set up his 32-yard blast around left end for the tying touchdown that suggested the Hornets weren't going to back down. But despite gaining 77 yards on 10 carries in the first half, he wasn't used on ASU's next series, and a Hornets offense that had averaged 42 points during its streak stalled.
Kentucky quickly pounced on those opportunities to break the game open.
After Demarco Robinson recovered Raymond Sanders' fumble in the end zone to put the Wildcats up 14-7, Whitlow hit Montgomery with a 6-yard TD pass. The subsequent celebration proved costly for Kentucky as the freshman receiver landed awkwardly and grabbed the back of his left leg. He went to the locker room with his knee wrapped in ice and did not return.
Kentucky's special teams turned in a big play as Josh Forrest blocked Bobby Wenzig's punt from the back of the end zone and was recovered by Cody Quinn at the ASU 7. Jojo Kemp scored on the next play to provide a three-touchdown lead.
Other than those early sacks of Whitlow and Crowell's TD, little else worked for Alabama State. The Hornets were outgained 275-147 in the first half with Whitlow's 178 total yards topping ASU all by himself.
Crowell finished with 84 yards rushing on 12 carries.