Tuscaloosa, Ala. - Top-ranked Alabama’s offense started the game with three consecutive touchdown drives and the Crimson Tide defense produced another dominant performance as the Crimson Tide (8-0 overall; 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference) methodically defeated 11th-ranked Mississippi State (7-1 overall; 3-1 SEC), 38-7, Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron had a typically efficient performance, running his stretch of passes thrown without an interception to a school-record 262 as he passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns while completing 16 of 23 pass attempts to spark the Crimson Tide offense. Alabama’s defense held Mississippi State to 256 yards of total offense and kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until the reserves allowed a late score as Alabama built a 24-0 halftime lead that reached 38-0 in the late stages.
The Alabama defense was led by safety Vinnie Sunseri’s career-best eight tackles. Linebacker C.J. Mosley had seven tackles, defensive back Nick Perry had five stops and the Alabama defense produced one quarterback sack, three tackles for loss (for 23 yards), two forced fumbles, one interception and five pass breakups.
Alabama opened the game with a touchdown march of 59 yard in nine plays highlighted by a 14-yard pass from McCarron to wide receiver Kevin Norwood and rushes of 10 and 11 yards by running back T.J. Yeldon, the 11-yarder accounting for the game’s first touchdown with 10:28 left in the first quarter. Placekicker Jeremy Shelley’s conversion kick gave Alabama a 7-0 lead with 10:28 left in the first quarter.
State responded quickly as Ladarius Perkins returned the ensuing kickoff for 33 yards to set up the Bulldogs at their 41-yard line. State moved to the Tide 47 when quarterback Tyler Russell converted a third-and-12 situation into a 31-yard completion on a pass to receiver Chris Smith at the Alabama 16. The drive stalled at the Alabama 14 and State placekicker Devon Bell attempted a 31-yard field goal that was blocked by Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
The Tide extended the early lead quickly after that when McCarron connected with Kenny Bell on a deep fade pattern near the left sideline. Bell had beaten MSU cornerback Johnathan Banks on the play and raced untouched to the end zone on a 57-yard scoring play. Shelley’s point-after gave Alabama a 14-0 lead with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
After forcing an MSU punt, Alabama took its third possession of the game to its third touchdown of the night. The Tide marched 73 yards in eight plays with a nine-yard pass from McCarron to tight end Michael Williams capping the drive. The march was jump-started by a pair of 15-yard penalties on MSU on the punt, one an interference with a fair catch call and the second an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Those miscues moved the starting point for the Alabama offense to the Tide 42. From there, Yeldon ran for 12 and three yards on successive plays before a 25-yard pass from McCarron to Amari Cooper that reached the Bulldog 11. After a two-yard run by Eddie Lacy and an incomplete pass, McCarron hit a wide open Williams for the score to give Alabama a 21-0 lead following Shelley’s conversion kick with 13:33 left in the second quarter.
Late in the second period, Alabama extended the lead to 24-0 following a State punt. The drive started at the Alabama 47 and was indirectly set up by a career-long 61-yard punt by Cody Mandell that pinned State at its own six-yard line before the Tide defense held. A nine-yard pass from McCarron to Williams and a 22-yard connection by McCarron to Christion Jones reached the State 22. Another pass to Williams gained six yards, but the drive stalled at the State 15 before two plays lost a yard to set up a 34-yard field goal by Shelley with 52 seconds left in the half.
Alabama’s first possession of the second half ended in a punt, a 34-yarder by Mandell that was downed at the State two-yard line. From there, the Bulldogs embarked on the longest drive sustained this season against the Alabama defense. State marched 97 yards in 16 plays to the brink of the Alabama end zone, only to be denied a touchdown by the Tide defense. Russell keyed the march with a 28-yard pass to Chris Smith to the Alabama 13. After a 14-yard pass to Smith reached the Alabama four-yard line, Perkins rushed for two yards and Russell gained one to the Tide one-yard line. After a Perkins rush was stopped for no gain, Russell rolled to his right under pressure by Crimson Tide defensive lineman D. J. Pettway and threw a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by safety Robert Lester to end the scoring threat with 2:47 left in the third quarter. That negated a drive that consumed 8:23 of the clock.
The Tide responded by going to the ground game on the next possession. Yeldon opened the drive with a 30-yard run to the 50 in which he evaded several tacklers before reaching midfield. After a Yeldon rushed for four yards and a sack of McCarron lost eight, McCarron passed to Lacy for 12 yards to set up a fourth-and-two at the State 46, from where Mandell’s short punt bounced off of State’s Deontae Skinner at the Bulldog 27.
With McCarron in the locker room with the trainers, backup quarterback Blake Sims took over the direction of the Alabama offense following the turnover. He rushed for three yards on the first play to the State 24 before running back Cyrus Jones carried for two more to the State 22. A false start penalty forced Alabama into a third-and-nine situation at the State 27. Phillip Ely then entered at quarterback and, on his first snap, tossed a short pass to Lacy out of the backfield and Lacy took it untouched for 27 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, the first touchdown pass of Ely’s career. Shelley’s point-after kick gave Alabama a 31-0 lead with 13:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter Alabama extended the lead to 38-0 when running back Kenyan Drake scored on a three-yard run to cap a 43-yard drive following a State fumble. State was able to get on the board with 4:39 left on a two-yard pass from reserve quarterback Dak Prescott to wide receiver Robert Johnson, capping a 63-yard drive in nine plays for the final 38-7 margin.
Courtesy UA Media Relations