Merriam-Webster defines Robot as the following:
1 a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized
b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically
2 : a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks
Saturday night, the Mississippi State football team found out just how much the Alabama Crimson Tide football team fits that definition. Alabama used methodical drives and key defensive stops to overcome Mississippi State Saturday, 38-7, in a game that was really never in doubt after the first quarter. State gave it their best shot Saturday, but were unable to capitalize when they needed to, and in the end they found themselves staring down the wrong end of a big lead.
Alabama got the football first to kick things off and had no trouble driving it right down the field, capping the opening drive with a T.J. Yeldon 11 yard touchdown run to quickly go up 7-0. You certainly did not want to start that way if you were MSU, but you knew that you still had yet to get your chance to touch the football, so there was still opportunity to tie the game up in our own opening possession.
State kicked off its first possession with a nice LaDarius Perkins return all the way out to the 45. From there, MSU began using the slow, steady passing game, coupled with a few runs by Perkins to begin moving the ball down the field. A Chris Smith 31 yard reception was the highlight of the drive, as State suddenly found itself with a 1st and 10 inside Alabama's redzone, at the 16 yard line. But that was where the fun stopped for MSU on that first drive, as the Bulldog offense sputtered out there, leaving a field goal try on 4th and 8 from the 16. What happened next would be an epitome of how the night would go for the boys in the maroon and white, as Devon Bell had his kick blocked by Dee Milner, and just like that, the momentum that MSU had worked so hard to try to regain had swung right back in Alabama's favor.
On Alabama's second possession of the game, the Tide put together a second methodical drive, fueled Eddie Lacy runs and short A.J. McCarron passes. Then, on 1st and 10 from its own 43, Alabama opted for the play action pass, and A.J. McCarron hit a wide open Kenny Bell over the top for a 57 yard touchdown pass, and just like that, MSU was down on the mat. 14-0 is a recoverable deficit against some teams, but not against Alabama.
That was essentially where the game ended for Mississippi State. Right there, in the first quarter. The Bulldogs would try their best to crawl back in it, but after Alabama scored twice more to take a 24-0 lead into halftime, you could see where this game was going.
After swapping punts to open the second half, MSU got the ball back on its own 2 yard line. 14 plays later, they found themselves sitting at the Alabama 4 yard line, with a new breath of life and an opportunity to finally get on the board. The drive, highlighted by LaDarius Perkins runs and a few really good passes from Tyler Russell, was exactly what State needed, right when we needed it. It felt like we were finally going to get ourselves back up off of the mat and fight, and get our first points of the ball game. But just two plays later, that warm fuzzy feeling would end, as Tyler Russell threw an interception on 3rd and 1 directly to Robert Lester, in what was - in my opinion - the right call at that time, it just was not executed correctly.
And that was when the final nail was put into the coffin. Alabama would go on two score twice more with their 2nd team, and our 2nd team would tack on a late TD as well, led by Dak Prescott. And that was it, a final of 38-7, and shattered hopes and dreams and definitely a shattered #WeBelieve campaign.
All credit goes to Alabama for this win, as they left no doubt Saturday that they are the best team in college football. And credit certainly goes to A.J. McCarron as well, who should be, if not already, a candidate for this year's Heisman Trophy. McCarron still has yet to throw an interception, and leads one of the best offenses in the country. You won't see him get as much recognition as Collin Klein or Geno Smith (did, at one time), but he definitely deserves it, as he showed Saturday that he is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. As for the Alabama defense, well, what do you say about them? Mississippi State gave them our best shot, and in the end all we had to show for it was a late scrub touchdown. It all goes back to the opening definition of this post, these Alabama players are like robots. They just make plays, do things methodically and keep the giant machine that is Alabama football right on rolling, despite their opponents best efforts. And the way LSU has been playing this season on offense, I would not be surprised to see the Crimson Tide dominate the Tigers next weekend in Baton Rouge as well.
As for Mississippi State, well, what do you say at this point? After spending a week getting themselves up for this game they saw everything go wrong for them Saturday, and their dreams of a perfect season shattered right before their eyes. But the good thing about being 18-21 years old is that you have a short memory, which is exactly what Mississippi State will need if they want to pick themselves up and make the season a successful one. But that is what the players have to realize at this point, there is still a TON to play for this year. State's schedule does not get any easier from here, as A&M visits in 6 days, and a trip to LSU follows that. But look at what still could be accomplished with 3 or 4 more wins this year. Even a 10-2 finish would make for a phenomenal season, one we definitely won't soon forget.
There will be things said this week by national pundits, yadada same old State this, yadada bulldogs showed us who they really were Saturday. But I still say that this is not the same ole Mississippi State football team, that they did not show us who they really were Saturday. I have to think Alabama will put that kind of a whipping on many teams this year, so you can't define MSU's talent or success for the season by one game against a
NFL juggernaut team like Alabama. This one loss, to me, does not mean that State is the same old team. And they will have plenty of chances to prove that in the upcoming month. Now MSU's season becomes defined not by perfection but by how the Dogs handle the adversity of a loss. Can they pick themselves back up after a deflating Saturday night? From player's tweets last night, it certainly seems so. Hope still springs in Starkville, even if it isn't a hope for a perfect season. With lots left to play for still, we will find out in just 6 short days if MSU can handle that adversity, and get back on track to one of its best seasons in over a decade.
- We said all week that MSU would have to continue to stay on the positive side of the turnover margin Saturday night if they wanted to have a shot against Alabama. They were unable to do so, however, as State had 1 interception, 2 fumbles lost (out of 4 total) all the while forcing none of the same on Alabama's side.
- Despite what the final score said, Mississippi State did not have a horrible game offensively. The Bulldogs were able to accumulate 16 first downs, despite on gaining 47 yards rushing total on 21 carries. State did manage to pass for 209 yards, but some chunks of that were in garbage time. Still, it's hard to say that Tyler Russell had a really bad game. He hung tough, taking a few shots in the pocket but he always picked himself right back up. And Russell made some throws that were flat out impressive. Despite the score last night, he is definitely still one of the best MSU quarterbacks that I've seen in my lifetime.
- Baker Swedenburg had another solid outing, booting 6 punts for 250 yards and an average of 41.7 yards per kick.
- Chad Bumphis, MSU's leading receiver on the season, was completely locked down Saturday night by Alabama's DBs, finishing with just 1 catch for 7 yards.
You can check out the full statistical breakdown of Saturday's MSU vs. Alabama game here.
Now MSU will turn its attention squarely to the Texas A&M Aggies, with a chance to turn the season right back around and move to 8-1. We do still believe, despite all of the jokes and the letdown Saturday. Other fan bases may find it funny, but there's still a lot of belief from the fan base behind this team. One loss doesn't define your season unless you let it, and State looks to fight that definition Saturday as they take on Johnny Football and the Aggies.