Tide wins 4th quarter and game

Andrew Zow replaced an injured Tyler Watts at quarterback and led Alabama to a 24-17 victory over Mississippi State Saturday. The win broke a four-game Crimson Tide losing streak and a four-game Southeastern Conference skid for Bama and kept alive the possibility of a post-season bowl game for Alabama.

The win moved Alabama to 4-5 on the season and 3-4 in SEC games. Bama will play at Auburn next Saturday, a game that will be telecast by CBS with kickoff shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST. Bama must win its remaining two games in order to be eligible for a bowl game.

For most of this year Alabama has been plagued by fourth quarter shortcomings. Against Mississippi State the Tide outscored the Bulldogs 14-0 in the final period. Bama had taken a 10-0 lead in the first half, but by the end of the third quarter Mississippi State had forged to a 17-10 advantage, and Bama was without Watts, who went out in the first quarter with a pulled groin muscle.

With 11:15 to play, Zow completed a nine-yard pass to fullback Donnie Lowe for a touchdown that tied the game at 17-17. Bama's defense had a good stand and the Bulldogs had a short punt, setting the Tide up at its own 48-yard line. Nine plays later Santonio Beard dashed in from 14 yards out for the winning touchdown. Both the Beard run and a critical third down play in that drive came on option plays. Zow is not ordinarily considered an option quarterback.

Zow's first full series at quarterback resulted in an eight-play, 44-yard touchdown drive. Bama got good starting field position from a pass interception by safety Reggie Myles. The drive was helped by a pass interference penalty against Mississippi State when Bama faced third and 22. Beard then had rushes of 19 yards and six yards for the score.

Alabama eschewed one field goal opportunity on the first play of the second quarter, botching a trick play. However, on Bama's next possession the Tide drove to the Mississippi State three-yard line, was unable to punch in a touchdown, and Neal Thomas kicked a field goal to make it 10-0 with just 2:19 until intermission.

Alabama's overall kicking game was not good most of the day, then following that field goal the Bama kickoff coverage team allowed State a 50-yard return to midfield. Then the defense collapsed, allowing the Bulldogs to go to a touchdown in just 1:47.

Mississippi State tied the game at 10-10 with a field goal midway through the third period, then got an 11-play, 81-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.

When Lane Bearden's 21-yard punt gave Mississippi State the ball at the Alabama 45 to start the final period, things did not look good for Alabama. But Zow directed two touchdown drives and Bama's defense did not allow a first down in the final period until after taking the lead and then Bearden punting the Bulldogs back to their own four-yard line with just 2:17 to play. Hirchel Bolden broke up three passes in the fourth quarter and then Saleem Rasheed got the final deflection on State's final play, a fourth down attempt, to seal the victory.

Alabama had the better of it statistically. Bama had 22 first downs to State's 16. Bama had 46 rushes for 228 yards, State 32 runs for 117 yards. Bama completed 13 of 27 passes for 173 yards, State 19 of 37 for 183 yards. Alabama had 73 plays for 401 yards, an average of 5.5 yards per play, Mississippi State 69 plays for 300 yards, an average of 4.3 per play.

Zow completed 12 of 22 passes for 157 yards and is now just 18 yards short of the Alabama record for career passing yards. Beard had 15 rushes for 95 yards and Ahmaad Galloway 10 for 71. Antonio Carter had four receptions for 58 yards and Sam Collins four catches for 52 yards.

Rasheed and Cornelius Wortham led Bama defensively, getting in on 10 tackles each.

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said the game ball went to Zow as a player who epitomizes what a team player should be. The coach said he was happy for the seniors who played their final game at Bryant-Denny Stadium and went out with a win. And, he said, "I'm very happy for our team. We needed something good to happen to them."

He said that he thought it was big that Alabama made the winning plays in the fourth quarter.

BamaMag Top Stories