Making Quick Work Of The Bulldogs
Alabama had struggled through the first quarter, put the game in good shape in the second quarter, had more blahs in the third quarter, then iced the game in the fourth quarter before a Wade-Davis Stadium record crowd of 58,103.
Although Bama was comfortably in front, 17-3, when Mississippi State kicked off to Alabama with just under 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Tide's next two possessions would end any suspense. Javier Arenas had a 46-yard kickoff followed by a 48-yard pass from Greg McElroy to Julio Jones for a touchdown "drive" that took eight seconds.
Later in the quarter Bama took over on Mark Barron's second interception of the game at the Alabama 30. Mark Ingram took the ball at left guard and went 70 yards in 11 seconds.
Nineteen seconds, 14 points.
Alabama, ranked second in the nation in the BCS ratings and third in the major polls, improved its record to 10-0. The Crimson Tide, which had already clinched the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship, is now 7-0 in SEC games. Mississippi State, which had a monster home schedule, fell to 4-6, including a 2-4 league record.
Alabama has its final non-conference game of the season next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Tennessee-Chattanooga. Kickoff will be at 11:20 a.m. CST with regional television coverage on the SEC Network.
McElroy had an excellent game, completing 13 of 18 passes for 192 yards with no interceptions and two touchdowns. He was not sacked and had four rushes for 30 yards.
In the battle of the SEC's top two running backs, Bama's Ingram had 19 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns to Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon having 22 carries for 81 yards. Ingram averaged 7.8 yards per carry, Dixon 3.7. Dixon did have six pass receptions for 59 yards, Ingram only one for nine yards.
Alabama dominated statistically with 58 plays for 444 yards to State's 57 plays for 213 yards.
Things were a bit ragged at the start in Starkville. The Bulldogs had the best of it for the first quarter, but couldn't take advantage of trips into Alabama territory. One drive ended when State planned to go for it on fourth down, and the ball was snapped before the quarterback was ready. The second ended when Mark Barron turned in his fifth interception of the year at the Alabama 12.
Alabama got its first scoring drive started after a Mississippi State punt to the Tide 20 late in the first quarter. Two plays got the Tide into good field position before the end of the quarter. Mark Ingram ran for nine yards, and then on a called quarteback keeper, McElroy went 16 yards. A one-yard run by Trent Richardson was key on a third-and-one at the State 45.
That enabled Alabama's offense to stay on the field, the Tide took advantage of that opportunity. McElroy got a nice block in pass protection from Richardson and connected with Darius Hanks at the State 25. Hanks brushed off a would-be tackler as he completed the 45-yard touchdown play. Leigh Tiffin kicked it to 7-0 with 12:46 remaining in the second quarter.
After a first quarter in which the Bulldogs had four first downs and gained 70 yards, State found its offense stymied in the second quarter. State didn't make a first down and added only 13 yards on a mere nine plays. The Bullies had three possessions and all were three downs and a punt.
A punt to Javier Arenas started Bama at its 28 with just under 11 minutes to play in the quarter. The Tide went on a 72-yard, 11-play drive that took 6:11 and ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Ingram. Ingram had a 12-yard run and McElroy completed passes ot eight yards to Julio Jones and a key 11-yard completion to Hanks at the Mississippi State 31. It was then turned over to back-up tailback Trent Richardson who went 18 yards at left end to the MSU 13 and nine yards up the middle to the State 4. Ingram took over and got the first down, then bulled in behind nose tackle-fullback Terrence Cody for the touchdown with 4:41 to play in the first half. Tiffin kicked it to 14-0, which would be the halftime score.
Alabama didn't look to be starting well in the second half, until McElroy found Maze for what looked like a short gain on third-and-long. But Maze negotiated a maze of Bulldogs and went 42 yards to the State 27. Three plays gained only five yards, so Tiffin was called on for field goal duty. He nailed the 39-yard effort with 11:19 to play in the third quarter, giving Bama a 17-0 lead. The seven-play drive took 3:32 and silenced an estimated 13 of 27,000 cowbells.
Moments later all cowbells were operational again as Chad Bumphis returned the ensuing kickoff for what seemed like another touchdown against Bama's kickoff coverage team. Cowbells and boos harmonized when officials marked Bumphis out of bounds at the at the Alabama 38. The Bulldogs got one first down, but the opportunity came to nothing as Derek Depasquale's 37-yard field goal attempt missed.
Depasquale got the Bulldogs on the board with 10:35 to play. Mississippi State took a long time to do it, but a drive that started at the State 39 with 2:34 to play in the third quarter ended with 10:35 to play in the game when Depasquale kicked a 34-yard field goal to pull the Bulldogs to within 17-3. It was really another lost opportunity as State had been first and goal at the Alabama five. A first down run by Anthony Dixon lost a couple and then Cory Reamer sacked State quarterback Tyson Lee for an 11-yard loss. A third down pass in the end zone was incomplete, forcing the field goal effort.
Alabama got those points back with interest and didn't take long to do it. Javier Arenas returned the kickoff 46 yards to the State 48. Alabama's offensive brain trust had the situation figured, and ended any hopes of a State upset with an excellent call.
On first down, McElroy caught the State defense looking for a run. Bulldogs bit on the run fake. Julio Jones was completely uncovered downfield and McElroy hit him for the touchdown with 10:18 to play. After Tiffin's kick, Bama's lead was extended to 24-3.
Mississippi State got another long kickoff return by Leon Berry, but the Tide held with Marquis Johnson getting Bama's third interception of the game at the two-yard line. Second team offensive players with Star Jackson at quarterback ran out the clock, Roy Upchurch carrying the ball on five plays to kill the final 2:39.
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