Alabama went into Starkville and defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 24-7, Saturday night.
With the win, Alabama improved to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Southeastern Conference games. The Crimson Tide went into the contest ranked fourth in the nation in the polls and third in the BCS standings. Unranked Mississippi State fell to 5-5 overall and 1-5 in SEC games.
Next week Alabama has its final non-conference game and its final home game when the Crimson Tide hosts Georgia Southern of the Southern Conference at 1 p.m. CST at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Georgia Southern is a power in the Football Championship Subdivision, once upon a time known as as Division IAA.
Eddie Lacy scored two touchdowns, including a 32-yard run in the final moments of the game when Bama was trying to run out the clock. While that may have made the final margin deceptively wide, the domination by the Tide was total.
Alabama never trailed in the game as the Crimson Tide had 20 first downs to only nine for Mississippi State. Bama’s best in the nation defense was able to hold the Bulldogs to 12 yards on 29 carries, an average of about a foot per carry. Meanwhile, Alabama had 44 rushes for 223 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per rush.
In passing, Bama was good on 14 of 24 passes with one interception for 163 yards, while holding the Dogs to 15-30 for 119 yards. Alabama defenders turned in five sacks, Mississippi State none.
Alabama had total offense of 68 plays for 368 yards (5.7 per play), the Bulldogs 59 plays for 131 yards (2.2 per play).
Alabama was led in rushing by Trent Richardson, who had 22 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown, but in half as many carries, Eddie Lacy had 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Kevin Norwood was the big play man -- and something of a surprise big play man -- in the receiving game with two catches for 60 yards.
Dont’a Hightower had another big game on defense with four primary tackles and seven assists and also had 1.5 sacks for 9 yards and 2.5 tackles for loss for 10 yards and broke up one pass. Although the official statistics did not credit him with a quarterback pressure, he definitely was in the face of the Bulldogs quarterbacks.
Mark Barron was in on nine tackles and C.J. Mosley was in on seven tackles.
Alabama had only a 7-0 lead at halftime as Crimson Tide field goal kickers missed two tries, including a relatively short 31-yard attempt (an extra point kick is equivalent to a 19-yard field goal). But thanks to the Bama defense and Mississippi State also missing two field goals -- including a 29-yard try after the Bulldogs started with a first and goal at the Tide 4.
Alabama got on the scoreboard with a five-play, 52-yard drive that benefitted from two big Mississippi State penalties. Bama punt return man Marquis Maze took a State punt at the Tide 33 and ran out of bounds, where he was tackled. The personal foul penalty gave Bama the start at its 48.
Mississippi native Kevin Norwood, who has not been used much as a receiver, caught a 21-yard pass to get the march started. Trent Richardson kept it going with a 15-yard run, but then went out of the game.
Eddie Lacy ran for six and then Bama had a false start. After another short run, Mississippi State was flagged for pass interference at the Bulldogs 3. Lacy went t left end and dived into the end zone for the touchdown with 9:59 to play in the second quarter. Jeremy Shelley kicked the extra point -- twice. The touchdown was reviewed after he kicked the first extra point, but he was good on the second try, too.
Alabama had missed field goals in the first quarter (Cade Foster on a 49-yard try) and earlier in the second quarter (Shelley on a 31-yard try).
Just before halftime, the Mississippi State defense made a play that threatened to tie the game, or at least get points for the Bulldogs. Linebacker Carson Lawrence picked off a McCarron pass at the 35 and returned it to the Alabama four, where it was first and goal with 2:15 until intermission. State had two pass incompletions around a run for a three-yard loss and a false start penalty, and faced fourth and goal from the 12. Brian Egan missed the three-point try and the Tide had a 7-0 halftime lead.
Earlier in the quarter State’s Derek DePasquale had missed on a 41-yard field goal try.
Alabama got points on its first possession of the second half, but not the points the Tide wanted. After a Mississippi State punt to the end zone, the Tide moved quickly into State territory with a 38-yard pass from McCarron to Norwood. McCarron then hit DeAndrew White on an eight=yard pass and Trent Richardson ran for six. After a penalty against the Tide for an ineligible receiver, Richardson ran 20 yards for a first down at the Bulldogs 13. When Richardson got eight yards on first down, a Bama touchdown seemed likely, but the next two plays lost a couple of yards and Bama settled for a 24-yard Shelley field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Remaining highlights of the third quarter were a couple of ill-advised gambles. On a fourth-and-inches at midfield, a McCarron quarterback sneak failed to gain. A few minutes later State tried a pass on fourth-and-seven that fell incomplete.
Alabama took advantage of its good field position. On first down, McCarron hit Marquis Maze for 13 yards and a first down to the State 40 and three more plays before the end of the third quarter got a first down at the Bulldogs 28.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Richardson streaked around right end for a 24-yard gain, barely stepping out of bounds at the four. It took the junior tailback two carries to put it in the end zone. With Shelley’s PAT kick, Bama had a 17-0 lead.
Alabama’s kickoffs continue to be sub-par. Foster’s kickoff carried only to the MSU 10 and was returned 68 yards to the Alabama 22. This time the defense couldn’t hold. Tyler Russell ran for 14 yards to the eight. After a penalty put the ball back at the 12, second-and-goal, Russell connected with Chris Smith at the goalline and he went in for the touchdown with just over 12 minutes to play. DePasquale’s PAT made it Alabama 17, Mississippi State 7.
After Alabama was forced to punt on its next possession, the Bulldogs started at their 20 and had some success. A fourth-and-inches gamble from the 29 was good. But after a sack by Josh Chapman and two incomplete passes, State had to punt the ball away.
Alabama started at its 27 and with 6:26 to play seemed to have its only goal being to run time. It was very successful. After a false start, Trent Richardson ran the ball nine consecutive times for a total of 43 yards and three first downs. He also burned five minutes of clock time.
Lacy came on in relief and ran three yards. After State used its last timeout, Lacy delivered the insult to injury, going around left end untouched for a 32-yard touchdowns that came with just 1:18 to play.