Tide Kicks Dogs Where It Hurts 32-7

Alabama won the coin toss and opted to receive, returning to their 29-yard line. On second down wideout Julio Jones broke two tackles after the catch for a 12-yard gainer. Mississippi State stopped the drive after one first down but P.J. Fitzgerald's 46-yard punt was downed on the one-yard line.

Pinned deep, Mississippi State did throw on second and third downs with only a seven-yard gainer by WR Brandon McRae. That left Blake McAdams punting from the back line of the end zone. Alabama's Kareem Jackson came through cleanly for the block and a safety at 10:03.

With the ball teed on his 20-yard line, PK Adam Carlson hit it low and long, and over the drawn-in return men. The kickoff rolled into the end zone for State's first touchback of the entire season. Alabama went three-and-out as quarterback John Wilson's third down throw was batted at the line by DT Jessie Bowman. The 38-yard punt had State starting in far better position, on their 42 this time.

QB Tyson Lee found WR Jamayel Smith in the middle for a 15-yard gainer into Tide territory. But after a false start, on 2nd-and-12 Lee was stepping up to the line for a call and OC D.J. Looney, making his first start, mistakenly snapped the ball. Alabama recovered the fumble on their 47-yard line.

Glen Coffee ran for 11 yards and one first down, and a eight-yard catch by Jones moved the chains again. A blocking foul on first down helped stop the surge though and on 4th-and-2 Leigh Tiffin knocked through a 35-yard field goal for the 5-0 lead at 1:42.

Derek Pegues fumbled the kickoff return but Arnil Stallworth recovered at the 21-yard line and on second down the blitz-antsy Bulldog line jumped the count. Soon McAdams was punting again, for 47 yards with Alabama taking over on their 36-yard line. The quarter ended with a five-yard sack of Wilson, and two snaps into the second period a blitz hurried the passer into an incompletion. Pegues fielded the 43-yard punt and was hit instantly at the 22-yard line.

During a Dog timeout a misty rain arrived, aggravating the chill. But Stallworth warmed things up as, with Alabama vacating one side on a blitz, he caught the hot throw and ran 32 yards to Alabama's 40-yard line. On 2nd-and-6 Lee somehow got a bullet through coverage to McRae for eight more yards and first down at the 28. A delay to Stallworth lost three, but Lee rolled right on second down and threw long.

Two Tide defenders were between Smith and the ball and neither got to it, as falling backwards Smith pulled in a 31-yard touchdown at 10:19. The flag dropped in the end zone was for offensive interference though the call could have gone either way. A couple of false-starts turned the PAT into a 30-yard kick. PK Adam Carlson made it as Mississippi State took the 7-5 lead.

Carlson skied the kickoff into the wind, and Alabama began from their 30-yard line. Wilson threw for a dozen yards, then scrambled for 11 more to State's side of midfield. On 3rd-and-3 Wilson was blind-sided by CB Marcus Washington and had to recover his own fumble so Fitzgerald could punt it, and have the 43-yarder downed at the Bulldog two.

Lee missed FB Eric Hoskins on third down so again McAdams had to kick from behind the letters in the end zone. Another safety would have been better than what happened, though. The hurried kick took a good bounce that turned out very bad, as Javier Arenas shook off the initial grab on his right sideline at the MSU 48, used his wall, and angled all the way to the other side before going out of bounds just three yards from paydirt. The play was confirmed by review.

Coffee got two yards through center, close enough for Wilson to follow his snapper for the rest of the distance and the 12-7 lead at 4:47. It was Alabama's first offensive touchdown at Mississippi State's expense since the 2004 game in Tuscaloosa, over 210 game-minutes.

Pegues took the kickoff at the eight and got to State's 47-yard line before Marquis Johnson saved the touchdown. Lee scrambled for six and Dixon hit for five more and first down at the Tide 42. With three rushers in his face Lee sidearmed to Dixon for another 11 yards. Under more pressure Lee was lucky his deflected throw for TE Nelson Hurst wasn't picked on the carom, but he lost six scrambling for his life and State took too long on the third down snap.

With a 3rd-and-21 at the 41 Lee missed Dixon and McAdams' high punt was downed at the 14. Alabama was content to run out the last 58 seconds and keep the 12-7 intermission margin. Two Tide special teams plays—the block safety and punt return—let them offset State's 134-110 edge in total yardage. Soon enough a punt play would break the game open.

But first Pegues let the second-half kickoff bounce, and glance off him, and again Stallworth had to come to the rescue. Lee scrambled for eight yards on second down—though had he noticed, Smith was breaking open straight downfield with a touchdown open—and Alabama gave up ten more yards with a foul after the tackle for first down at the MSU 38. This time Lee couldn't escape a third-down blitz and lost six.

McAdams punted it well, 46 yards with Arenas fielding at his 20 and middle of the field. With State's left (Alabama's right) gunner blocked away Arenas had a clean alley to that side. He used it for an untouched return and touchdown at 12:14 for the 19-7 lead.

State handled this kickoff cleanly but didn't get lined-up in time for the first snap. Wesley Carroll took over at quarterback and ran for six yards, before McAdams again punted. This time the coverage was there and Alabama took over on their 27. Wilson had a receiver open on State's 35 but the throw was dropped, and soon enough State had the ball back. Not for long though as Lee, back in, couldn't hook up with Smith long or Aubrey Bell short.

Starting at their 49, the Tide rode Coffee for 17 yards on three hikes and Wilson flipped to Travis McCall for 12 more. Stalling at the 16-yard line, Tiffin slipped his kick inside the right upright for a 22-7 margin at 3:50. Pegues took a huge hit on the kickoff return but bounced away and made it to the 40-yard line. A pass interference call as McRae was hit early gave a free first down at the 46. On third down Lee went long down the right sideline and Smith would have been there if not tripped at the 30, with no flag. Arenas had to fair-catch the punt at Alabama's 11.

The first down snap was fumbled but recovered, and Coffee turned a routine handoff into a 40-yard blast to State's 48. Ingram got the spot on 3rd-and-2 as the quarter ended on a first down, and Coffee converted the next third down. The drive stopped at the 20-yard line so Tiffin added to his field goal total at 11:14 for a 25-7 margin.

Now desperately needing to make something happen the Bulldogs managed just one first down, on a throw to Bell, before Lee was wide of Dixon on 3rd-and-2. Alabama changed tacks and went to the air, and well, as Wilson found Brad Smelley for 37 yards and Jones for another 34, both times open right down the middle. So Ingram only needed dive the last yard at 7:58 for the touchdown and final margin of victory.

After the relatively productive first half, Mississippi State was shut down almost completely in the second managing only 33 net yards and three first downs. Alabama finished with 364 total yards and a net gain of 5.4 per-snap, but it was the kicking—specifically, punting—yardages that really told the tale. Arenas finished with 153 yards on six chances with one touchdown and one set-up of a score. By contrast Pegues had one yards on two return chances, and the two he let bounce both were downed deep to put State in fatal troubles.

Lee was 11-of-28 for 132 yards and the one score, and sacked twice. Wilson was an efficient 10-of-17 for 148 yards. Ingram had a narrow edge on partner Coffee in the ground-gaining, 78 to 71 yards. But Dixon was kept in check all night with just 26 yards on 11 carries.

With their win Alabama ended a two-year losing streak to the Bulldogs, and made up for three touchdown-less seasons in the process.

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