Crimson Tide defensive line swarms Dak Prescott, Bulldogs in rout
Alabama took care of business on the road in Starkville on Saturday, securing a 31-6 win against Mississippi State and getting a step closer to winning the SEC West.
Here’s a breakdown of what transpired:
- Alabama’s defensive line is scary good: This isn’t exactly breaking news because the Crimson Tide has ranked among the league leaders in sacks and rush defense throughout the season, but this game served as a reminder of just how dominant this group can be. A’Shawn Robinson (2.5 sacks) and Jonathan Allen (3 sacks) led a group that sacked Dak Prescott nine times, which is six more times than his previous career high.
- Derrick Henry is the Heisman frontrunner: On the heels of a big-time performance against LSU in Week 10, Henry delivered another strong performance against Mississippi State. He ran for 204 yards on 22 carries, and broke off touchdown runs of 74 and 65 yards against the Bulldogs. He has made his case to be considered the top running back in the country over LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook.
- Jake Coker does just enough to not mess things up: The fifth-year senior did throw his first road interception of the season, but he was otherwise pretty quiet for a team that scored 31 points. His big play came on a short throw to Calvin Ridley, who made a sick move and picked up a big block to take it 60 yards for a touchdown. Aside from that throw, Coker was 14 of 24 for 84 yards.
- It all comes down to the Iron Bowl… maybe: Saturday’s win against Mississippi State assures the Crimson Tide will roll into Auburn in Week 13 with an opportunity to win the SEC West with a victory on The Plains. However, given that Alabama plays out of conference next week while LSU and Ole Miss square off, there is an outside chance that a loss in the Iron Bowl would not cost Alabama its chance the repeat as conference champions.
- Losing Kenyan Drake is a big deal: Nick Saban revealed in the postgame news conference what many feared after seeing the talented running back leave the field. Drake has a fractured arm. Saban seems to think it is something that could be repaired quickly and that Drake could be back on the field this season, but the Crimson Tide will suffer without him in the meantime. While Derrick Henry has comfortably carried the load at RB this season, Drake offered a change of pace and a security blanket should something happen to the big guy.
Offense: (B) — Three big plays on offense compared to just one turnover was plenty good enough to win this game. Derrick Henry had another big game behind an offensive line that also did not allow a sack. Stats don’t wow, but scoreboard does.
Defense: (A-plus) — Dak Prescott may have thrown for 300 yards, but that’s really just a tribute to how good of a player he is. He was sacked nine times, and the Bulldogs did not get into the end zone. The Crimson Tide was dominant.
Special Teams: (B) — A 69-yard punt return for touchdown by Cyrus Jones was a highlight for the special teams unit, but a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter was enough of a blemish to take away an A.
Coaching: (A) — It is hard to complain about the performance of Nick Saban’s staff in a tough road environment. As this staff has been known to do, it got the job done.
Overall: (A) — I can’t think of a good reason to keep this performance from receiving an A. The coaching was solid, Derrick Henry was great, Jake Coker did what he had to do and the defense was suffocating against the league’s best quarterback. Nice work.
Saban said he and his staff believed the area to exploit was their advantage on the defensive line relative to the Mississippi State offensive line. The Crimson Tide was in the Bulldogs backfield all night long, keeping experienced QB Dak Prescott under constant pressure. Offensively, the Crimson Tide continued to rely on big-play opportunities for both RB Derrick Henry and WR Calvin Ridley, and they both answered then bell with long-range touchdowns.
- RB Derrick Henry: Had 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. TD runs of 74 and 65 yards.
- DL Jonathan Allen: Had seven tackles, three sacks, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble.
- DL A’Shawn Robinson: Had five tackles and 2.5 sacks.