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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