Explosive Plays Drown Out Cowbells

Mississippi State has a tradition of shooting a cannon when the Bulldogs score. The artilleryman was a little quick on the trigger in the second quarter when he fired a shmot heard ’round Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville Saturday as State was short on a 50-yard field goal attempts.

Meanwhile, it was Alabama with the explosions. The Crimson Tide had three plays – a 69-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones, a pass from Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley that went for 60 yards, and a 74-yard run by Derrick Henry for second quarter touchdowns.

There was one more boom to come, Henry going 65 yards for his second touchdown and going over 200 yards rushing for the second consecutive game and third this year. Throw in a 42-yard Adam Griffith field goal for Bama and the Tide defense limiting Mississippi State to a pair of field goals (while sacking Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott 9 times) and the final damage was Alabama 31, Mississippi State 6.

Alabama came within an eyelash of another dramatic touchdown. Prescott was sacked by Tim Williams, the ball came out, and Tide defensive end D.J. Pettway scooped it up and went 56 yards to the end zone. On review, though, Prescott had been down before the fumble.

The win improved Alabama, ranked second in the nation this week, to 9-1 on the season and 6-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The Bulldogs, ranked 17th, fell to 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the league.

Alabama has a tune-up game for Auburn next week as the Crimson Tide plays its final game of the year in Bryant-Denny Stadium and its final non-conference game, hosting Charleston Southern. Kickoff will be at 3 p.m. CST and the SEC Network will televise the contest.

Although Mississippi State dominated statistically to some extent, the Crimson Tide defense had another game of holding oppoinents to under 100 yards on the ground. Alabama had 30 rushes for 235 yards, State 42 for 89.

Henry finished with 22 carries for 204 yards.

Prescott got his passing yards, completing 22-43 for 300 yards, but suffered his second interception of the year (turned in by Marlon Humphrey) and did not account for a touchdown. He had 18 TD passes coming into the game this season and had also run for 7 touchdowns and had a streak of 32 games – longest in the nation – with touchdown responsibility.

For Alabama, Jacob Coker hit 15 of 25 passes for 144 yards with one TD and one interception, but was not sacked.

Calvin Ridley had five receptions for 76 yards, Ardarius Stewart 4-32.

JK Scott punted five times for a 40-yard average.

Reuben Foster led Alabama with 10 tackles, followed by Reggie Ragland wi,th 8, Jonathan Allen and Eddie Jackson with 7 each, and Minkah Fitzpatrick and Geno Matias-Smith with 6 each. Allen had three sacks for 17 yards, Ryan Anderson 2-14, A’Shawn Robinson 2 ½ for 13, and Tim Williams ½ 11. The nine sacks resulted in 55 yards in lost yardage. Foster, Cyrus Jones, and Tony Brown had two pass break-ups each. Foster also had two quarterback pressures and Allen and Anderson had one each.

Mississippi State had 20 first downs to only 13 for Alabama. The Bulldogs had 87 plays for 393 yards (4.5 per play), Bama 55 plays for 379 yards (6.9 per play).

State fumbled three times and lost one. Alabama did not fumble.

Both teams were penalized four times for 40 yards. They came into the game with the Bulldogs the SEC’s least penalized team, the Tide the most penalized.

Alabama was 5-14 on third down conversions, State 7-19. Owing in part to Alabama’s explosive scoring plays, the Bulldogs had a time of possession advantage, 33:30 to 26:30.

Although Alabama had a 21-3 halftime lead, the Crimson Tide offense was having its struggles. Bama had the ball for only 23 plays – 8 rushes for 94 yards and 7-15 passing (with one interception) for 86 yards – and only 5 first downs. The Tide had the ball for only 8:44, while Mississippi State had it for 57 plays and 21:16.

Still, the name of the game is points, and Alabama was getting them.

After a scoreless first quarter, which included Alabama’s defense holding State on first and goal at the 3 (Cyrus Jones and Reggie Ragland broke up passes and Dilllon Lee made the tackle on a fourth-down run from the two by Dak Prescott.

State had the first chance at points, but Westin Graves’s 50-yard field goal attempt was well short.

State’s next possession also ended with a kick, a punt to Cyrus Jones at the Tide 31. Jones started left, then burst up the middle of the Bulldogs’s coverage and went 69 yards for the touchdown with 10:44 left in the second quarter. Adam Griffith kicked the PAT to make it 7-0.

State had another three-and-out on its next possession as Prescott suffered one of his 6 first-half sacks, and after the punt and a block-in-the-back penalty on the Tide, Bama started at its 35.

Calvin Ridley got 5 yards on an end-around, but then dropped the second down pass – one of three dropped passes the freshman star had in the first half. He made up for it on the next play. Coker hit him over the middle and Ridley made a fine first move, got a block from Kenyan Drake, and then raced for the end zone. A final block by ArDarius Stewart let Ridley into the end zone for the 60-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Bama lead.

Mississippi State drove down to the Tide 14, but three passes fell incomplete and Graves kicked a 31-yard field goal to pull the Bulldogs to within 14-3.

It took Alabama just one minute to get its third touchdown of the quarter. Derrick Henry, who had been bottled up for most of the first ,half, got excellent blocking at the line and broke free on a 74-yard touchdown run up the middle. With 5:10 to play until intermission the Tide was up 21-3 and that would be the halftime score.

Alabama got the ball to start the third quarter and the Tide drove to a first down at State’s 31, but stalled. Griffith nailed a 42-yard field goal to extend the Bama lead to 24-3.

State had a chance for a touchdown with a first-and-goal at the Alabama 7 late in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Graves, making it 24-6 toing to the fourth quarter.

It looked as if the Tide would get those three points back when Bama drove to the Bulldogs 21, but the drive stalled and Griffith was called on. His attempt was blocked by Tolando Cleveland.

Not to worry. The Bama defense held the Bulldogs to a three-and-out and Bama had the ball back at its 26 midway through the final quarter. Henry got nine yards on first down. On second down he started at left tackle, broke outside, got a nice block from Ridley, and went 65 yards for a touchdown and the end of the scoring.

State’s first possession after that ended in an interception by Humphrey and the end of the day for all Alabama starters on offense and defense, and the end of the day for Prescott.


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