No. 1 Alabama beats Mississippi State 20-7

Alabama looked lethargic, uninspired, sloppy and downright
ordinary against a middling Southeastern Conference team on
Saturday.

And the top-ranked Crimson Tide still found a way to win by
nearly two touchdowns.

T.J. Yeldon rushed for 160 yards and A.J. McCarron threw two
touchdown passes as Alabama overcame four turnovers to beat
Mississippi State 20-7 on Saturday night.

”We typically struggle here and we did again tonight,” Alabama
coach Nick Saban said. ”But give Mississippi State credit, they
had a good gameplan. They played very physical and we couldn’t
control the line of scrimmage.”

It was the lowest scoring game of the season for Alabama (10-0,
7-0 SEC), which led 10-7 midway through the third quarter before
pulling away.

Alabama has seemed invincible over the past two months, winning
seven straight games by at least three touchdowns. But that aura
wasn’t anywhere to be found at Davis Wade Stadium, with Saban’s
bunch looking curiously mortal after last week’s emotional victory
over LSU.

”We came out sluggish and we were sluggish to the end.”
Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said.

Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5) kept the game far closer than most
anticipated, but couldn’t take advantage of Alabama’s mistakes.
Tyler Russell started for the injured Dak Prescott and completed 15
of 24 passes for 144 yards and an interception before leaving with
a shoulder injury when the Bulldogs were trying to rally in the
fourth quarter.

McCarron tossed two rare interceptions and Yeldon had a costly
fumble that led to Mississippi State’s only touchdown, but Alabama
survived to set up a much-anticipated Iron Bowl with Auburn.

Mississippi State had two chances to get back into the game in
the fourth quarter after McCarron’s second interception and a
fumble by Kenyan Drake gave the Bulldogs field position in Alabama
territory.

But without Russell, Mississippi State’s offense went nowhere.
Freshman Damian Williams didn’t connect on any of his five pass
attempts – though two of them were good passes that were
dropped.

”If you’re going to beat that team, you’ve got to make plays,”
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.

Mullen said Russell felt his throwing shoulder ”pop” after
trying to make a tackle following his interception late in the
third quarter. He played the next series, but struggled to throw
and Mullen made the switch.

McCarron completed 18 of 32 passes. His first interception in
the second quarter was his first in 139 pass attempts. It was the
third 100-plus streak without an interception during his
career.

Alabama parlayed a methodical 14-play, 59-yard opening drive
into Cade Foster’s 33-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

But the next four drives were brutal for the Crimson Tide’s
offense, which managed just two first downs during that span.

Mississippi State tried to take advantage with a long drive
midway through the second quarter, but it bogged down on the 7 and
Evan Sobiesk missed a 24-yard field goal that could have tied the
game.

A few minutes later, the Tide finally broke through with
Yeldon’s 50-yard run down the sideline to Mississippi State’s 28.
McCarron hit Brian Vogler five plays later for an 18-yard touchdown
pass with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give
Alabama a 10-0 halftime lead.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Vogler made a nifty move at the goal
line, catching the pass and sidestepping a Mississippi State
defender before diving into the end zone. It was his first career
touchdown.

It looked like that would be all the breathing room Alabama
needed, but the mistakes continued in the second half. Yeldon
fumbled after a 10-yard run and Mississippi State’s Beniquez Brown
recovered at Alabama’s 48.

The Bulldogs then drove downfield and scored thanks to Russell’s
timely passes and a stroke of luck. Russell fumbled just short of a
touchdown, but right tackle Charles Siddoway fell on the ball in
the end zone to pull Mississippi State within 10-7.

McCarron’s 11-yard pass to Norwood pushed the Tide ahead 17-7
with 5:46 left in the third quarter.

Alabama’s defense held an opponent to seven points or less for
the sixth time this season. The Tide’s punter Cody Mandell might
have been the team MVP, averaging 55 yards on four punts to
constantly put Mississippi State in bad field position.

”He did a fantastic job,” Saban said. ”He had a fabulous
night on a windy night. One of those big kicks was into the
wind.”

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