The Scoop: A week after a deflating overtime loss to LSU, the Alabama Crimson Tide rebounded with a 24-7 slugfest win over Mississippi State in Starkville. It wasn’t pretty, but Alabama rode a dominant defensive effort to the 17-point victory. Alabama outgained Mississippi State 386-131. The Bulldogs’ 5-5 record doesn’t look great, but they were competitive in losses to Auburn, LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Turning Point: It’s hard to point out a turning point in this game because it was never really in doubt. If I had to point a single moment out, it was probably in the second quarter when Mississippi State’s Marvin Bure late hit Marquis Maze out of bounds on a punt. Alabama’s offense had been stalling early in the game, and they had already missed two field goals. Baker Swedenburg’s punt directed Maze toward the sideline, and he could do nothing but run out of bounds, but Bure’s late hit gave Alabama a free 15-yards, and led to Alabama’s first touchdown of the night on Eddie Lacy’s two yard scamper.
Stat of the Game:Alabama’s defense held Mississippi State to 12 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Vick Ballard led the way for the Bulldogs with 21 yards on the ground, but four Mississippi State players had negative yards on the ground. Also, it was the 11th straight game Alabama hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 14 points dating back to last season’s Iron Bowl.
Richardson carried the offense on his back with a career-high 32 rushing attempts. (Almond/Birmingham News)
Play of the Game: Trent Richardson’s ankle-breaking 19-yard reception from AJ McCarron in the 3rd quarter made my ankles hurt. If I even thought about making that kind of move, my ACL’s would bust out of my knees. He bent and moved in a way that nobody was ever meant to as he picked up 19 yards, and led to a Jeremy Shelley field goal to put Alabama up 10-0.
Offensive Player of the Game: On a night where AJ McCarron once again struggled, Trent Richardson put the offense on his back without much help from the offensive line. Richardson carried the ball a career-high 32 times and earned a hard-fought 127 yards with a touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 26 yards to give him 143 all-purpose yards in the game, and keeping his chances at Alabama’s second Heisman Trophy alive. On the final drive of the game for Alabama, Richardson carried the ball nine consecutive times before Eddie Lacy came out and finished it off with a 32-yard touchdown. Lacy finished with 96 yards on 11 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Game: I don’t know if I can single out a single player after this game. It was a total defensive effort and they dominated Mississippi State. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t get the shutout that they deserved. A special teams breakdown is what led to the only Mississippi State points of the evening. Courtney Upshaw was a monster as usual, Dont’a Hightower played great, DeQuan Menzie was strong in coverage, Mark Barron made plays, the list goes on. It was a total defensive effort by the Tide tonight.
Unsung Hero: I can’t say enough about the play of Nick Gentry on the defensive line. Jesse Williams went out with some type of arm injury early in the game, and Gentry was called upon to step up and he played a strong game. He had at least one sack, and I want to say he was involved in another. Gentry is just a blue-collar football player that could play for anybody in the country with his work ethic. It’s great to have him on the football team.
Bad Signs: The kicking was bad again this week, luckily it didn’t cost the team. Alabama was 1 for 3 on field goal attempts for the evening. Cade Foster missed from 49, and Jeremy Shelley missed from 31, and then made one from 24. Also, Foster struggled kicking the ball off tonight, and had multiple kickoffs end up around the 20-yard line. If he can’t kick off any better than that, I don’t know why he is on the roster still.
AJ McCarron really struggled for the second straight week. He completed 14 of his 24 passes for 163 yards and an interception. The interception was awful as McCarron tried to force the ball to Chris Underwood in double coverage. McCarron needs to pick up his play in the next couple of weeks.
Also, Alabama was banged up coming into the game, and left even more banged up. Barrett Jones didn’t play in the game due to an ankle injury suffered against LSU. Darius Hanks was in the game for all of one drive before he left due to an injury, and Jesse Williams had his arm in a sling for most of the second half.
Good Signs: You can’t say enough about this defense. Alabama held Mississippi State to 131 yards of total offense, and again the only reason the Bulldogs put up ANY points at all was due to a great kickoff return. Alabama kept Mississippi State from scoring after McCarron’s interception was returned down to the 4-yard line earlier in the game.
Trent Richardson is a beast if you didn’t know that already. The line didn’t block great tonight, but Richardson still managed to break the 100-yard mark on the ground, his 7th 100+ yard rushing performance of the season.
What it Means: Alabama avoided a big letdown following the LSU loss, and moved to 9-1 on the season. Also, Alabama’s National Title hopes gained ground on Saturday with Stanford losing to Oregon and Boise State losing to TCU. Alabama should find themselves still in 3rd place when the new BCS Standings come out on Sunday.
Next up: Alabama will get a week to allow some guys to get healthy as they head back to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the final home game of the season against Georgia Southern of the FCS. The game with the Eagles will be a tune up game for the Iron Bowl in two weeks.