Mississippi State football: Grades after Alabama crushes Bulldogs
Mississippi State had a goal of opening its game with Alabama by limiting the Tide with easy scores and not turning the ball over.
But Saturday, before 4 minutes came off the clock, the Tide (9-1, 6-1 SEC) jumped to a 14-0 lead as fans were still trying to get their seats warm on a cold day in Starkville.
It was the Najee Harris show early, as the Bama running back accounted for both early scores en route to No. 5 Alabama’s 38-7 victory inside Davis Wade Stadium.
Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5 SEC) will have to win its final 2 games to advance to a bowl game and extend a postseason streak dating to 2010.
In the first half alone, the Tide led 35-7 and made the MSU defense, specifically the secondary, look completely lost. At one point, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a perfect 9 for 9 and 3 touchdown passes before he left with a hip injury.
He gutted the MSU defense, finishing with 256 yards and 2 touchdowns passing in less than a half. He was a sparkling 14 for 18 passing. To be honest, it was a bad recipe for the Bulldogs, as Alabama needed style points following the previous week’s loss to LSU in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama needs help to reach the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff and one component it style points.
MSU had no answer for running back Najee Harris. The Crimson Tide’s leading rusher had 88 yards rushing and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The game, which was over in the 1st half, saw the MSU defense give up 350 yards through the air and 510 total yards.
We knew defense would be a concern for MSU. The secondary, which lost cornerback C.J. Morgan for the season in the 3rd quarter, was a backbreaker for the Bulldogs.
Linebacker Erroll Thompson had 9 tackles to lead Mississippi State. Cornerback Tyler Williams had his best game as a Bulldog, with 8 tackles and 1 forced fumble.
The Bulldogs only mustered 1 touchdown drive early in the game, on Kylin Hill’s 1-yard run. The Tide did a great job in limiting Hill to only 35 yards on 16 carries. MSU quarterback Tommy Stevens led the Bulldog rushing game with 96 yards on 10 carries. It was a fair day on the ground (188 yards on 37 carries) passing was another story.
Stevens threw for only 82 yards and no touchdowns on 12-of-21 passing. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, on their opening possession, Stevens threw an interception that led to the Tide opening a 14-0 lead early.
Hill and Stephen Guidry led the Bulldogs with 3 catches each.
The most glaring stat for MSU? The Tide held the Bulldogs to 3-for-12 on 3rd downs on the day.
MSU punter Tucker Day had a nice day, punting 5 times and averaging 39.4 yards per kick. In a game this lopsided, to no surprise, the Tide only punted twice.
MSU didn’t attempt a field goal in the game.
Mississippi State will face FCS member Abilene Christian before welcoming Ole Miss for the final game of the season. MSU’s 9-year run of postseason appearances is in jeopardy as the Bulldogs will need to close out the season 2-0.
It will also be a big game for rival Ole Miss, as the Rebels will look to finish the season 5-7 and ruin the Bulldogs’ bowl chances.
“Spotting them a 14-0 lead didn’t help but our kids competed until the last whistle. But at the end of the day, we didn’t coach or play well enough to beat a team the caliber of Alabama.” — MSU head coach Joe Moorhead
“The interception is completely on me, you can’t spot them (Alabama) 14 points.” — Bulldogs quarterback Tommy Stevens