Mississippi State falls to No. 4 Alabama, 24-7

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

A stagnant offense and too many mistakes meant Mississippi State once again came up short against a division rival.

The Bulldogs managed 131 total yards and had several special teams miscues in a 24-7 loss to No. 4 Alabama on Saturday night at Davis Wade Stadium.

''Three of four dropped passes, we missed two field goals, we dropped a punt snap,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''We do all the little things that you can't do.''

Mississippi State (5-5, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) remains one victory from bowl eligibility. Mullen, who is in his third year with the Bulldogs, is now 2-11 against SEC Western Division rivals, with both victories coming against Ole Miss.

The 131 total yards were the lowest in the Mullen era. The offense averaged just 2.2 yards per play.

''It's really frustrating,'' MSU quarterback Tyler Russell said. ''We were so close but had things like false starts and sacks that shouldn't have been taken. We can't make mistakes like that.''

Alabama's Trent Richardson rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, slowly grinding away at the Mississippi State defense. The Tide were coming off a 9-6 loss to No. 1 LSU.

''After a loss like last week, a win is the only medicine,'' Richardson said.

It was a typical no-frills victory for Alabama (9-1, 6-1), which has won nine of its last 11 against Mississippi State, including four straight. The Crimson Tide defense has held 11 straight opponents to 14 points or less.

Alabama struggled again with field goals, missing two of them in the first half after missing four last week. But Richardson and Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns, made up for those miscues.

''We had a slow start,'' Lacy said. ''They had a lot of energy, but energy only lasts so long.''

Richardson didn't have his typical Heisman-caliber performance, finding little running room against Mississippi State's defense, especially in the first half. But he got stronger as the game progressed, with an explosive 25-yard run early in the fourth quarter to Mississippi State's 4.

Two plays later, he plowed through the line for a 2-yard touchdown that gave the Tide an insurmountable 17-0 lead. He had 88 of his yards rushing in the second half.

Alabama coach Nick Saban was pleased how his team bounced back after last week's emotional loss to LSU. The setback put a serious dent in the Tide's national championship hopes, though there's still an outside shot at a second title in three seasons.

''There was a challenge presented to them after the difficult circumstances of last week,'' Saban said. ''And they responded.''

Alabama could've had a bigger lead much sooner, but struggled once again with the kicking game. The Tide missed two field goals - a 49-yard attempt by Cade Foster and a 31-yarder by Jeremy Shelley - before taking a 7-0 lead in the second quarter after Lacy's 2-yard touchdown run.

Mississippi State's kickers couldn't kick straight either.

The Bulldogs blew their best opportunity late in the first half when Cameron Lawrence intercepted A.J. McCarron's pass and returned it to the Alabama 4-yard line. But the ensuing three plays lost yards, and Brian Egan missed a 29-yard field goal as Mississippi State came up empty.

McCarron completed 14 of 24 passes for 163 yards and an interception.

Mississippi State did have one rally early in the fourth quarter. LaDarius Perkins returned a kickoff 68 yards to Alabama's 22-yard line and three plays later Russell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Chris Smith as the Bulldogs pulled within 17-7.

But Alabama buckled down from that point. Lacy's 32-yard touchdown with 1:18 remaining pushed the lead to 24-7.

''At the end of the day, we want zero points on the board,'' Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said. ''But our goal was 13 or less, so we met our goal.''

Mississippi State's two-quarterback system with Chris Relf and Russell had been effective over the past few weeks, but failed to generate much momentum against the Tide. Mullen even briefly tried third-stringer Dylan Favre in the second half, but nothing worked.

Russell had the most success, completing 13 of 25 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Mississippi State had only 12 yards rushing.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP


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