Alabama at Mississippi State

Alabama overcomes turnovers to beat Mississippi State

CBSSports.com wire reports
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STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Alabama looked lethargic, uninspired, sloppy and downright ordinary against a middling Southeastern Conference team on Saturday.

And the top-ranked Crimson Tide still found a way to win by nearly two touchdowns.

T.J. Yeldon rushed for 160 yards and A.J. McCarron threw two touchdown passes as Alabama overcame four turnovers to beat Mississippi State 20-7 on Saturday night.

"We typically struggle here and we did again tonight," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "But give Mississippi State credit, they had a good gameplan. They played very physical and we couldn't control the line of scrimmage."

It was the lowest scoring game of the season for Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC), which led 10-7 midway through the third quarter before pulling away.

Alabama has seemed invincible over the past two months, winning seven straight games by at least three touchdowns. But that aura wasn't anywhere to be found at Davis Wade Stadium, with Saban's bunch looking curiously mortal after last week's emotional victory over LSU.

"We came out sluggish and we were sluggish to the end." Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood said.

Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5) kept the game far closer than most anticipated, but couldn't take advantage of Alabama's mistakes. Tyler Russell started for the injured Dak Prescott and completed 15 of 24 passes for 144 yards and an interception before leaving with a shoulder injury when the Bulldogs were trying to rally in the fourth quarter.

McCarron tossed two rare interceptions and Yeldon had a costly fumble that led to Mississippi State's only touchdown, but Alabama survived to set up a much-anticipated Iron Bowl with Auburn.

Mississippi State had two chances to get back into the game in the fourth quarter after McCarron's second interception and a fumble by Kenyan Drake gave the Bulldogs field position in Alabama territory.

But without Russell, Mississippi State's offense went nowhere. Freshman Damian Williams didn't connect on any of his five pass attempts -- though two of them were good passes that were dropped.

"If you're going to beat that team, you've got to make plays," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.

Mullen said Russell felt his throwing shoulder "pop" after trying to make a tackle following his interception late in the third quarter. He played the next series, but struggled to throw and Mullen made the switch.

McCarron completed 18 of 32 passes. His first interception in the second quarter was his first in 139 pass attempts. It was the third 100-plus streak without an interception during his career.

Alabama parlayed a methodical 14-play, 59-yard opening drive into Cade Foster's 33-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

But the next four drives were brutal for the Crimson Tide's offense, which managed just two first downs during that span.

Mississippi State tried to take advantage with a long drive midway through the second quarter, but it bogged down on the 7 and Evan Sobiesk missed a 24-yard field goal that could have tied the game.

A few minutes later, the Tide finally broke through with Yeldon's 50-yard run down the sideline to Mississippi State's 28. McCarron hit Brian Vogler five plays later for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Alabama a 10-0 halftime lead.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Vogler made a nifty move at the goal line, catching the pass and sidestepping a Mississippi State defender before diving into the end zone. It was his first career touchdown.

It looked like that would be all the breathing room Alabama needed, but the mistakes continued in the second half. Yeldon fumbled after a 10-yard run and Mississippi State's Beniquez Brown recovered at Alabama's 48.

The Bulldogs then drove downfield and scored thanks to Russell's timely passes and a stroke of luck. Russell fumbled just short of a touchdown, but right tackle Charles Siddoway fell on the ball in the end zone to pull Mississippi State within 10-7.

McCarron's 11-yard pass to Norwood pushed the Tide ahead 17-7 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.

Alabama's defense held an opponent to seven points or less for the sixth time this season. The Tide's punter Cody Mandell might have been the team MVP, averaging 55 yards on four punts to constantly put Mississippi State in bad field position.

"He did a fantastic job," Saban said. "He had a fabulous night on a windy night. One of those big kicks was into the wind."

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Alabama's Brian Vogler stretches for the goal line and a TD as the Crimson Tide stay perfect by beating Mississippi State. (USATSI)
Alabama's Brian Vogler stretches for the goal line and a TD as the Crimson Tide stay perfect by beating Mississippi State. (USATSI)

 

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Scoring Summary
BAMACade Foster 33 yd FG
BAMABrian Vogler 18 yd pass from AJ McCarron (Cade Foster kick)
MISSSTCharles Siddoway 0 yd run (Evan Sobiesk kick)
BAMAKevin Norwood 11 yd pass from AJ McCarron (Cade Foster kick)
BAMACade Foster 35 yd FG
 
Team Stats
 BAMAMISSST
First Downs2010
Third Down Efficiency4-124-15
Fourth Down Efficiency1-10-3
Plays-Net Yards65-38358-197
Rushes-Yds33-19629-53
Passing Yds187144
Kick Return Yds1837
Punt Return Yds3-15
Passes18-32-215-29-1
Punts4-2206-254
Fumbles-Lost2-24-0
Penalties-Yds5-411-5
Time of Poss.30:5729:3
 
Individual Stats
RUSHING
BAMA: T.J. Yeldon 24-160, Kenyan Drake 4-28, AJ McCarron 3-12, Team 2--4
MISSST: LaDarius Perkins 10-25, Josh Robinson 6-17, Damian Williams 5-6, Tyler Russell 4-4, Ashton Shumpert 3-3, Charles Siddoway 0-0, Team 1--2
PASSING
BAMA: AJ McCarron 18-32-187-2
MISSST: Tyler Russell 15-24-144-1, Damian Williams 0-5-0-0
RECEIVING
BAMA: Christion Jones 5-37, Amari Cooper 4-45, DeAndrew White 2-28, Kevin Norwood 2-23, Kenyan Drake 2-9, O.J. Howard 1-21, Brian Vogler 1-18, T.J. Yeldon 1-6
MISSST: Malcolm Johnson 6-84, Jameon Lewis 4-36, LaDarius Perkins 3-12, De'Runnya Wilson 1-13, Joe Morrow 1--1
 
Standings
TeamStandingsConferenceOverall
Alabama1st SEC West0-00-0
Mississippi State1st SEC West0-00-0