No. 1 Alabama's stout defense smothers Mississippi State
Starkville, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - Top-ranked Alabama gave Mississippi State several opportunities to pull off an upset Saturday night.
The Bulldogs never embraced the chances. Instead, the Crimson Tide remained unbeaten on a track to their third consecutive BCS title game appearance with a 20-7 win at Davis Wade Stadium.
AJ McCarron threw for 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC), which hosts FCS opponent Chattanooga next Saturday before a showdown at nationally-ranked Auburn in the Iron Bowl. T.J. Yeldon carried the ball 24 times for 160 yards for the two-time defending national champions. McCarron ended 18-of-32 in passing efficiency, but was picked off twice.
"We have to prepare our players better. That's on us," an upset Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "That's on me so however we played today is my responsibility. We didn't get them prepared to play well. We didn't get them mentally focused so they could play their best."
Tyler Russell connected on 15-of-24 throws for 144 yards for Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5), which lost its third in a row. The Bulldogs have dropped 15 in a row against ranked teams.
Russell, who started in place of an injured Dak Prescott, left the game with an apparent shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs failed on a 23-yard field goal attempt in the first half, and scored their only points when offensive lineman Charles Siddoway recovered a Russell fumble in the end zone in the third quarter.
That got the hosts within 17-7, and the Bulldogs drove into Alabama territory later in the third, but Russell's pass to the end zone was picked off by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Mississippi State had several dropped passes. That included a sure touchdown to De'Runnya Wilson with 5:16 left in the fourth quarter. Instead, Wilson couldn't make the grab down the left sideline on fourth down, and the Crimson Tide took over at their 22 and were able to seal the win.
"I'll be perfectly honest with you, we expected to win the game," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said in his postgame news conference. "Maybe there is not a person sitting here and maybe there wasn't a person sitting out in the stands who did.
"I can guarantee you in that locker room there is not one person who didn't expect to win the game coming in here tonight. We expected to stop them and we expected to score, but we didn't do that."
Alabama's Cade Foster kicked a 33-yard field goal to cap a game-opening drive that ate up seven minutes and featured a Yeldon 3-yard run on fourth down from the MSU 25.
The Bulldogs had a great chance to move ahead in the second when they marched 73 yards in nine plays. The drive, though, stalled at the Alabama 2, and Evan Sobiesk pushed a 23-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Taveze Calhoun picked off McCarron on the ensuing drive, but MSU was forced to punt.
Yeldon broke free for a 50-yard run on the next play, and on 3rd-and-11 from the 18, McCarron scrambled before finding tight end Brian Vogler on the left side of the field. Vogler avoided one defender and plowed over a second one on the way to the end zone with 20 seconds left in the half.
Yeldon fumbled the ball away early in the third, and the Bulldogs made them pay thanks to the quick hands of Siddoway. On 1st-and-goal at the 9, Russell rumbled six yards, but with his back to the end zone he was stripped of the ball. Siddoway pounced on the ball among a pile of players.
The Crimson Tide widened the gap back to 10 points thanks to McCarron's 11- yard TD pass to Kevin Norwood on a fade pattern with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
Foster's 35-yard field goal early in the fourth came after Russell was picked off by Clinton-Dix.
Even after another interception by Calhoun and a fumble from Kenyan Drake, the Bulldogs couldn't capitalize on their opportunities. Damian Williams, who replaced the injured Russell, was stopped for no gain on fourth down with 6:47 left. Less than two minutes later, his fourth down pass to a streaking Wilson fell incomplete.
Alabama has won the last five meetings with the Bulldogs and leads the all- time series, 76-18-3 ... McCarron has a 35-2 record at Alabama. That ties Jay Barker for the most wins by a Crimson Tide QB ... In the past eight games, the Alabama defense has surrendered just five touchdowns ... McCarron surpassed John Parker Wilson (8,099 yards from 2005-08) for the most yards of total offense in a career at Alabama. McCarron finished the game with 199 yards (187 passing; 12 rushing) bringing his career total to 8,146 yards.
11/17 01:01:58 ET