Alabama Blasts Mississippi State

Just because you dodge a bullet doesn't mean the gun isn't still loaded and pointed at your head. On a night when United States Armed Forces and veterans were honored, Alabama used explosive plays to sent Mississippi State into full retreat from Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.

Alabama used its big guns -- Greg McElroy on passes to Marquis Maze and Mark Ingram and a long run by Julio Jones -- to defeat Mississippi State, 30-10.

Alabama improved to 8-2 on the year and 5-2 in Southeastern Conference play. The Bulldogs, who had won six in a row coming into the game, fell to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in conference games.

It looked as if Alabama had started to pull away from State when Maze returned a punt for an apparent 89-yard touchdown, but the play was wiped out by a penalty. While the Bulldogs were thinking about how the artillery had missed, Bama loaded up with Ingram on the next play and put the game out of reach.

Alabama will have a rare Thursday night game next week. The Crimson Tide will host the Georgia State team of former Bama Coach Bill Curry at 6:30 p.m. CST, a game that will be telecast by ESPNU.

Alabama-Missississippi State Stats

Alabama sandwiched a pair of field goals--one by the short kicker and one by the long kicker--around a Mississippi State three-point kick to take a 6-3 lead after the first quarter.

Working without a huddle, Alabama moved quickly into the Mississippi State red zone after the game-opening kickoff, but the Tide had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley. The Tide took only 3:05 to drive 59 yards. Mark Ingram had a 12-yard run, but his third-and-two try came up a yard short of a first down, forcing the field goal try. Greg McElroy completed passes of seven yards to Julio Jones, 15 yards to tight end Michael Williams, and gains of 11 and eight to Marquis Maze. Bama had a 3-0 lead.

A good defensive play by Alabama helped the Bulldogs to a field goal. After Mississippi State drove into Bama territory, a pass by Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf was picked off by Alabama's Robert Lester at the Crimson Tide six-yard line. Bama couldn't get out of the hole and a poor punt by Cody Mandell set the Bulldogs up at the Alabama 39.

LaDarius Perkins did most of the damage on the drive with a 20-yard run to the Alabama 14, but the Tide stiffened forcing a 24-yard field goal by Sean Brauchle with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter.

Marquis Maze had a nice kickoff return from the end zone to the Alabama 28, then bailed the Tide out with two nice catches. On a third-and-nine Maze caught a ball at the sideline for a 12-yard gain. Bama came right back with essentially the same play, McElroy hitting Maze for 13. Moments later McElroy connected with Julio for 23 and a first down at State's 27. The drive bogged down, though, and on fourth-and-10, long kicker Cade Foster was good on a 45-yard field. Alabama had taken the lead at 6-3 with 50 seconds remaining in the quarter.

Alabama extended its lead to 13-3 on a quick five-play, 75-yard drive that ended with McElroy throwing a short pass to Maze and Maze breaking one tackle, evading one Bulldog, and out-running the last defender for a 45-yard touchdown.

The drive had started when State had a rare poor punt, a shanked 19-yard effort to the Alabama 25. McElroy hit Darius Hanks for 11 yards to get the drive started. Two plays later McElroy scrambled to midfield, a 15-yard gain. After another short pass to Hanks, McElroy and Maze teamed up on the big touchdown play. The drive had taken just 2:12.

Mississippi State's great record of punt coverage was maintained as much by Alabama as by the Bulldogs. When Heath Hutchins punted to Maze at the Alabama 19, it looked for all the world that Maze had busted that Bulldogs achievement as he returned the kick 81 yards for an apparent touchdown. Unfortunately, Alex Watkins was flagged for a block in the back on the return and the Tide was set back at its own 22.

No problem.

While Maze took a breather, Bama flanked Mark Ingram out and McElroy hit him with a quick pass. Julio Jones provided a springing block, and Ingram went 78 yards to the end zone. The "drive" took about 15 seconds.

That 20-3 score was the halftime margin.

Maze finally got that nice punt return, a 22-yard effort that was six more yards than State had given up total this season. Starting at the Bama 44, it took one play and 11 seconds to extend the margin to 27-3.

Julio Jones came from left end, took the handoff, and went around right end for 56 yards and the touchdown. Maze and Darius Hanks had blocks to spring Jones, and then Julio out-raced the defense to the end zone.

A.J. McCarron replaced McElroy at quarterback early in the fourth quarter and had Bama knocking at the goalline, but an ill-advised (perhaps just poorly executed) pass play on second down and inches for a touchdown resulted in a 10-yard sack. McCarron had gotten Bama to the goal line with a clutch third down pass to Hanks for 39 yards. After McCarron got away with a throw into coverage in the end zone that went incomplete, Shelley kicked a 28-yard field goal for a 30-3 lead.

With plenty of subs for both teams playing, State then drove 78 yards in 10 plays with back-up quarterback Tyler Russell completing a 27-yard pass to Chad Bumphis for a touchdown. That ended the scoring with the Tide having a 30-10 lead with 8:08 to play.

Alabama had an opportunity to get pile-on points at the end. Following Lester's second interception, the back-up offense drove inside the five, but Jalston Fowler, the fourth tailback to play for the Tide, fumbled and State recovered in the end zone.

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