In what was supposed to be the first test of the season for number one ranked Alabama, it was just another case of road kill as the Crimson Tide rolled over the Mississippi State Bulldogs 38-7 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Thursday night. It was the first loss for State, which came into the game ranked 11th in the BCS standings, 12th in the Coaches Poll, and 13th in the Associated Press rankings.
Bama improved to 8-0 on the season and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. MSU fell to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
State had high hopes of completing its sweep of opponents in the state of Alabama, but found the Tide to be a different challenge than Troy (a 30-24 victim) and South Alabama (30-10) of the Sun Belt and an Auburn (28-10) team that has only an overtime victory over Louisiana Monroe on its 1-7 résumé.
Alabama gave up a couple of long Mississippi State drives and had perhaps less a statistical advantage than might have been expected from the score. The Tide had 22 first downs to 16 for State. Bama had 40 rushes for 179 yards, the Bulldogs 21 runs for 47 yards. Alabama completed 17 of 24 passes for 235 yards. State completed 19-36 for 209 yards. In total offense, it was Alabama 64 plays for 414 yards, 6.5 yards per play, and Mississippi State 57 plays for 256 yards, 4.5 per play.
Mississippi State came into the contest leading the nation in turnover percentage with an advantage of plus 17. Bama wasn’t far behind at plus 14. Now they are even. The Tide had an interceptions and two fumble recoveries and Bama did not suffer a turnover.
Two teams that have not been penalized much this year were flagged a few times, State six times for 56 yards, Bama seven for 63.
Alabama had an advantage of over eight minutes in time of possession, 34:14 – 25:46.
The Tide scored on all four of its Red Zone opportunities and held the Bulldogs to 1-3 when State got to the Alabama 20. State was good on 4-13 third down conversions, Bama 4-11.
Al;abama quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 16-23 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Phillip Ely completed his only pass attempt for a 27-yard touchdown.
T.J. Yeldon had 10 runs for 84 yards and a touchdown, Kenyan Drake 8-47 and a touchdown.
Tight end Michael Williams caught five passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, Eddie Lacy 4-51 and a touchdown, Amari Cooper 4-47, and Kenny Bell 1-57, which was a touchdown.
Cody Mandell had a nice night punting, five kicks for a 42.2 average, two inside the 20, and no return yardage allowed.
Cyrus Jones returned two kickoffs for 76 yards.
Defensively, Vinnie Sunseri was in on 8 tackles (seven solo), C.J. Mosley was in on 7 tackles (4 solo), Deion Belue was in on four tackles and broke up two passes, and freshman linebacker Denzel Devall was in on two tackles, which went for 21 yards in losses (including Bama’s only sack) and had two quarterback hurries.
Mississippi State tailback LaDarius Perkins came into the game leading the SEC in rushing at 103 yards per game, but managed only 38 yards on 15 rushes against Bama.
Next Saturday Alabama goes to LSU for a clash between the teams that played in last year’s BCS National Championship Game. Kickoff Saturday in Baton Rouge is at 7 p.m. CDT with CBS televising. Last year LSU defeated Alabama, 6-3, in the regular season game in Tuscaloosa, but the Crimson Tide got revenge in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans with a 21-0 victory over the Tigers for the national championship.
LSU was open this weekend. The Tigers are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in SEC games.
Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and went out to a 24-0 first half lead against the Bulldogs.
The Crimson Tide opened the game with an efficient 59-yard drive in nine plays with T.J. Yeldon taking it on a draw play for an 11-yard touchdown. Bama had to convert a fourth-and-short at the State 37 on the drive and Eddie Lacy got the first down at the 35. AU McCarron completed a 14-yard pass to Kevin Norwood and Yeldon had a 10-yard run to the 11 to set up the score. Jeremy Shelley kicked it to 7-0.
Mississippi State made a nice drive to the Alabama 14 before its drive stalled. A 30-yard field goal attempt by Devon Bell was blocked by Bama’s Dee Milliner.
From there, the Tide went on a six-play, 80-yard drive, most of it on a 57-yard pass from McCarron to Kenny Bell. Bell was behind State’s All-America candidate cornerback Johnthan Banks, took McC arron’s pass in at the 20,and raced to the end zone. Alabama had a 14-0 lead with just under three-and-a-half minutes to play in the first half.
Bama looked to be in a deep hole when State punted to Cyrus Jones, who took a fair catch at the Alabama 12. But the Bulldogs were guilty of interference, a 15-yard penalty that got the Tide out of a hole. An additional five-yard penalty was tacked on State Coach Dan Mullen for a sideline violation. From the 32, Alabama went 68 yards with McCarron hitting tight end Michael Williams on a third-and-8 from the 9. McCarron had a nice 35-yard pass and reception by Amari Cooper to key the eight-play drive to a 21-0 lead a minute and a half into the second quarter.
Both teams then went into long offensive droughts. State punted five times and Alabama four times before Bama was finally able to put together a scoring drive just before halftime.
From the Alabama 47, Bama drove to the State 17 where Shelley kicked a 34-yard field goal with 52 seconds left in the half. McCarron had a 22-yard pass to Christion Jones to the Bulldogs 22 to key the drive that gave Alabama a 24-0 lead at intermission.
It looked as though Mississippi State was going to break through with a very fine drive from its own 2 to a first-and-goal at the Alabama 2, but on third down from the one, Robert Lester stepped in front of a Tyler Russell pass and picked it for Bama with just under three minutes remaining in what would be a scoreless third quarter.
From there, Bama was able -- with a little more help from the Bulldogs – to extend the lead to 31-0. Although it appeared the Bama possession had been stopped as the fourth quarter began.
After a delay of game, Cody Mandell punted from the State 47 for only 19 yards to the 28, but when the ball bounced off the back of one of the Bulldogs, it was snared by Lester and the Tide kept possession.
From the 28 (with Blake Sims in the game at quarterback and Phillip Ely at a wide receiver spot and McCarron in the dressing room getting treatment on a back bruise), the Tide took just three plays to get a touchdown. Bama got a procedure penalty that set up a third-and-nine at the 27 with Ely at quarterback. Under a heavy rush, he got the ball away to Lacy at the 25, and Lacy took it to the end zone and a 31-0 lead with 13:05 to play.
Moments later, the State kicking game had another mistake that led to another Bama touchdown.
Jameon Lewis made a nice return of the ensuing kickoff, but was stripped of the ball by Christion Jones and Brandon Collins recovered at the Bulldogs 43.
After Yeldon picked up a first down with two runs, freshman Kenyan Drake took over at tailback. He had runs of 3 and 11 yards for a first down at the 18. Sims made a nice play on a high snap from back-up center Ryan Kelly to gain five yards to the 13, then turned it over to Drake, who scored on a run around right end with 8:14 to play.
Alabama lost the shutout when back-up quarterback Jack Prescott completed a two-yard pass to Robert Johnson with 4:39 to play. After the kickoff, Bama ran out the clock.