Oh, the excitement leading up to this game. #WeBelieve became a twitter movement. MSU fans were pumped about being 7-0 and the prospects of such a huge game vs. the Tide. FWtCT had its biggest week ever - 58K folks came to read our blog that week...y'all were locked and ready to go.
Things didn't start off to well when Cyrus Jones returned the opening kickoff to the the 41 yard line. The feeling of this game was very exciting - even in watching the replay, the feel was different, it was intense.
After Bama got a first down and into Bulldog territory, they were faced with a 3rd & 8. Matthew Wells lined up beside Denico Autry and was unblocked to on his was to the QB, but McCarron side-stepped him and run towards the sideline, Benardrick McKinney couldn't get off his block and Bama got enough for a 4th & inches. That play proved to be a big one as the next featured Eddie Lacy getting just enough for the 1st down. Three plays later it was 7-0 Alabama on a T.J. Yeldon draw.
Mississippi State had a nice kickoff return of their own when LaDarius Perkins took it to the 45 yard line, he fumbled it but the ball went out of bounds before the Tide could recover. The Dawgs were able to pick up a first down and get into enemy territory, then on 3rd & 12 Russell hit Chris Smith along the sideline for a 31 yard completion. On 3rd & 8 from the 14 the ball was thrown in the direction of Chad Bumphis but he was covered pretty well and the ball went through the back of the endzone. Still, a good drive, but the field goal attempt by Devon Bell was blocked. Ugh. Big time miscue by Marcus Green who left Dee Millner completely unblocked - just a 31 yard attempt for not.
During one of the commercial breaks the ESPN crew showed some of the highlights from the disc gold matchup between MSU and Alabama. It appeared to take place at the Lake Lowndes disc golf course. I played there a few times in college...a lot of fun.
Alabama got the ball back and notched a couple of first downs and then McCarron hits Kenny Bell on a 57 yard bomb. It was a play-action out of the shotgun and Bell flat beat Johnthan Banks for the score. 14-0 Bama.
On the ensuing drive, Nick Griffin started things off with a nice run for 9 and a half yards...then Malcolm Johnson picks up the first down on a slant. A pass interference call against Millner put State in plus territory. On 2nd & 8, Chris Smith was wide open down the sideline but Russell was inaccurate and caused Smith to catch in out of bounds...Dawgs forced to punt. That makes two drives getting into their territory but coming away empty handed.
On the punt, Dee Arrington was called for interference on the fair catch. Dan Mullen was furious and he got called for unsportsmanlike. Instead of having the Tide pinned back at the 12, they start the drive on the 42. At this point, the Bama O-line was starting to dominate.
End of the 1st quarter: Alabama 14, MSU 0
Soon enough it was 21-0 Bama...and the dream was over with 3 quarters to play.
State got the ball back and went in the wrong direction. A delay of game penalty and then Blaine Clausell got dominated on 2nd down and Russell was sacked. 3 and out, punt out of our own endzone,
Bama started the next drive in MSU territory but they were unable to do anything and ended up punting after just three plays.
Perkins just couldn't get anything going all night. He did start this drive with a 5 yard run, but the after a Robert Johnson catch came up short of the first down it was another 3 and out.
3 and out for Bama.
What looked like a first down for State was negated by a holding call on Clausell, not a good game for Blaine. Another punt.
Benardrick McKinney blitzed straight through the line and sacked McCarron for a 13 yard loss on 1st down. Defense played a solid 2nd quarter, three straight 3 and outs forced.
Russell under more pressure deep in his own territory again, four straight 3 and outs.
Alabama breaks the 2nd quarter defensive struggle and with under 2:00 in the half they go downfield and kick a field goal. 24-0 Bama.
State got the ball back with :51 left and quickly completed a pass to Clark to finally get a first down again. On the next play, Russell nails the umpire right where it hurts with a pass. With a timeout in his pocket, Mullen lets the clock runout and the drive ends at midfield.
At the half: Bama 24, MSU 0
The Dawgs get the ball first to start the half but they are unable to do anything yet again. Blaine Clausell was called for holding on 3rd down, but it didn't matter anyway as they wouldn't have had the first down.
Up to this point in the season, A.J. McCarron hadn't thrown an interception. His last came in Starkville when Cam Lawrence picked him off. On this drive, Darius Slay has a perfect shot at ending his streak as he has two hands on it but couldn't come down with the ball. Bama punted from the MSU 38.
The next drive was MSU's best all night. It started from their own 2 - the 6th drive so far to start inside their own 20. A first down catch by Jameon Lewis, Arceto Clark, Marcus Green, and Chris Smith got them into the red zone. Another big catch by Smith got inside the 5 and a quick Perkins run set up 1st and Goal. Two more rushing attempt were unsuccessful getting into the endzone. Russell was 7 of 8 for 85 yards on the drive prior to throwing an INT from the 1 yard line. Smith was open, but Dee Millner made a nice snag to end the threat - it was Tyler's first INT since the USA game, a span of 135 attempts.
Bama was forced to punt once they took over, but the ball hit Deontae Skinner on the return while he was blocking and the Tide recovered. McCarron had gone into the locker room, but nevertheless, his backup Philip Ely threw a 27 yard TD to Eddie Lacy. 31-0 Bama.
Jameon Lewis had a nice return on the ensuing kickoff, but fumbled the ball and Alabama recovered. Three straight turnovers for State, who was +17, 1st in the country in turnover margin coming in. The mistake was capitalized for another touchdown. 38-0 Bama.
With the outcome decided, Dak Prescott came in and quickly got a first down with a pass to Robert Johnson. A few plays later the Prescott to Milton handoff was faulty and Prescott fell on it for a 13 yard loss. But he was able to convert a 4th & 17 with pass to Lewis over the middle - Lewis got hit pretty hard after the catch but held on. Josh Robinson got the ball inside the 5, and RoJo caught State's only TD of the night. 38-7 Bama.
Nick Saban ran out the final few minutes, game over.
FINAL: Bama 38, MSU 7.