It started with Cyrus Jones’ 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the first of his career (37 returns prior to the score). It was also Alabama’s first punt returned for a touchdown since Christion Jones took one back 75 yards against Chattanooga on Nov. 23, 2013.
No one would have suspected at the time that Jones’ touchdown and Adam Griffith’s extra point kick were all the points Bama would need to win the game.
Although technically a punt return, this does not include Minkah Fitzpatrick’s blocked punt and scoop and score in Alabama’s win against Georgia earlier this season. This season, the Tide has recorded six non-offense touchdowns. Since Nick Saban became Alabama head coach in 2007, the Crimson Tide has TDs on 16 interception returns, 10 punt returns, 5 kickoff returns, 4 fumble returns, and 4 blocked punt returns.
Three of those explosive offensive scores came in the second quarter. The Crimson Tide has scored in the first half of its last 113 games, the longest streak in the nation. The last time Bama failed to score in the first half was on Sept. 29, 2007, when Alabama and Florida State headed into halftime in a scoreless tie. The Seminoles won that game, 21-14. Bama has a 97-16 record during the streak.
Alabama has now scored in 193 consecutive games – the longest streak in program history.
Freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley has four touchdown catches this season, three of which have gone for 45 yards or more. His second career TD was a 45-yard strike against Georgia, and he followed that with an 81-yard reception against Arkansas the next week. Saturday’s touchdown score came on a screen that he took for 60 yards, making a nice move to get it started after a short screen pass; picking up an early block from Kenyan Drake; and being escorted to the end zone on a block by Ardarius Stewart. Ridley’s other touchdown reception this season was a 15-yarder against Louisiana-Monroe, the first receiving score of his career.
Here are more notes from Alabama’s 31-6 win over Mississippi State.
Alabama rushed for 235 yards against Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide is 75-4 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for at least 140 yards. The only losses were at Auburn in 2013, Ole Miss and Ohio State in 2014, and Ole Miss this year.
The Crimson Tide now holds an 80-17-3 on-the-field advantage in the series. It was Bama’s eighth straight win against the Bulldogs.
State was ranked 17th in the nation coming into the game. Alabama, which is ranked second in the College Football Playoff poll, now has a 37-13 all-time record against teams ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press poll. (Alabama was third and State 20th in the AP poll.)
Alabama is 23-2 against ranked teams in regular season games away from Bryant-Denny Stadium since the start of the 2011 season. The Crimson Tide is 4-0 this season with wins over No. 20 Wisconsin in Arlington, at eighth-ranked Georgia, at College Station against No. 9 Texas A&M, and against Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday. Alabama was 5-1 in 2014, 4-1 in 2013, 6-0 in 2012 and 5-0 in 2011.
Alabama is 31-6 in road games under Saban and 29-6 in SEC road games, including wins in the last six. All but one of those SEC road losses has been by seven or fewer points, the exception at South Carolina in 2010.
Alabama led Mississippi State, 21-3, heading into halftime. Under Saban, the Tide is 91-6 (.938) when leading at the half. Alabama has led at the half in seven of its 10 games this year, trailing Ole Miss and Arkansas, and tied at 7-7 versus Tennessee.
The Alabama scoring plays were dramatic, but the defense had its share of success, notably the nine sacks. Alabama led the SEC going into Saturday with 29 sacks. Bama now has 225 yards in losses on 38 sacks, the most by a Tide defense in a single season under Saban. That is also the most since 2002 when the Crimson Tide had 44. The performance against Mississippi State is the most by an Alabama defense since the Tide racked up nine sacks against Vanderbilt on Sept. 12, 1998.
Alabama’s 1975 team had a record 13 sacks (minus 82 yards) in a 30-7 win over Tennessee in Birmingham.
The previous high for sacks in a game this year had come against Texas A&M, six.
Jonathan Allen was the leader with three sacks, a career high for the junior defensive end. It was the first time an Alabama player had recorded three sacks in a game since Courtney Upshaw did it against Auburn on Nov. 26, 2010.
Allen had a career-high seven tackles in the game, surpassing his previous career high of five, which he accomplished three other times, most recently at Texas A&M this season.
Under Saban, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or fewer 55 times since the start of the 2007 season. The Mississippi State game marked the fourth time this season that Alabama has held an opponent to 10 points or less. Last year, Alabama shut out two opponents, including Texas A&M on Oct. 18. Alabama held 9-of-13 opponents to 10 points or less in 2013 with three shutouts. Seven opponents were limited to 10 points or less in 2012, four of which were shutouts. Alabama was successful in holding opponents in the 0-10 point range in nine games in 2011 and eight times in 2010. UA kept opponents within that range seven times in both 2008 and 2009, and in 2007 posted two games in which it held opponents to 0-10 points. Alabama has shut out the opposition 16 times during the Saban era.
Captains for Alabama were defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, linebacker Denzel Devall, and center Ryan Kelly.