The Alabama Crimson Tide heat-checked Mississippi State on Saturday night, keeping the Bulldogs out of the end zone en route to a massive 49-9 victory in Starkville. The Bulldogs came out with an aggressive game plan and simply failed to perform to the same level as their opponent.

After the game MSU head coach Mike Leach pointed out what the Bulldogs need to beat a team like Alabama — a time machine.

“You just have to keep grinding … and in our case get older,” Leach said.

Despite the effort, this was no moral victory. I firmly believe that in college football moral victories (where a team loses in a circumstance that suggests a loss is acceptable) are rarer than people believe. This was not a moral victory, it was a measuring stick and a heat check.

The Bulldogs were coming off the biggest win in the Mike Leach era, then a bye week. Alabama was coming off an upset loss on the road to a then-unranked team.

National and SEC pundits alike suggested that the game on the road against MSU provided the Crimson Tide a good opportunity to “get right” following their loss to Texas A&M. That, of course, is insulting and annoying to Bulldogs fans, but it’s also true.

And that’s exactly what happened. The Tide “got right” against the Bulldogs, but the Bulldogs showed effort, aggression, and some resilience against Alabama.

Mississippi State nearly came up with big plays on defense and nearly finished off a couple of long and impressive drives for touchdowns, but didn’t. Instead, Alabama QB Bryce Young consistently escaped MSU blitzes and the Tide defense stiffened near the goal line to hold the Bulldogs to 3 field goals by Brandon Ruiz.

Settling for those field goals was perhaps the biggest disappointment from the loss for MSU. The Bulldogs failed to get the ball into the end zone three times at the end of long drives into Alabama territory.

To clarify, I am not as analytically driven as many out there in the football content world and I do believe that points win games and that field goals are often the right decision. I have no criticism of Leach’s choice to kick field goals in this game. I do, however, argue that settling for field goals can be demoralizing to a team, especially when the goal is to upset a superior team like Alabama.

In this game, the Bulldogs had three field-goal drives. Those drives were 12 plays for 49 yards, 9 plays for 56 yards, and 12 plays for 56 yards. In the latter two drives, the Bulldogs got to the Bama 10-yard line but couldn’t finish, instead losing ground.

Defensively, the missed opportunities came by way of pressure. The Mississippi State game plan was to go at the young Alabama quarterback to force bad decisions, bad throws, or of course, get sacks.

However, that’s not what happened. The MSU blitzers didn’t get home or impact Young’s play much at all in key situations. This led to exposed coverages and huge plays for the Tide.

I applaud the game plan and think the play calls showed encouraging effort by the coaching staff. However, Leach criticized the execution of the blitzes, saying that the rushers needed to take better angles and that the Bulldogs should have gotten more sacks than the 2 they did.

Offensively, this was probably the worst game from quarterback Will Rogers II this season, and maybe of his career. On one of his 3 interceptions, he underthrew threw a ball deep to his left boundary that was returned for a touchdown. On another pickoff, he and his receiver were not on the same page about throwing to the back shoulder.

Alabama is a team that takes advantage of those kinds of things, and did.

That said, I thought Rogers (35 for 55, 300 yards) showed increased aggressiveness in his decision-making at times and gave his receivers chances to make plays. His progression is clear.

The Bulldogs move on to a possible “get right” week of their own when they head to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.