Alabama vs. Mississippi State score, takeaways: No. 1 Tide notch second straight SEC West shutout
No. 16 Mississippi State was held to 169 yards of offense in a 24-0 loss
No. 1 Alabama and its No. 1 offense finally met resistance on Saturday, spinning its wheels while also seeing starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa knocked out of the game. But there was never a doubt that the Tide would remain undefeated thanks to a defense that has answered the call in the last two weeks against the toughest competition in the SEC West.
Alabama went up 14-0 early on a pair of rushing touchdowns and cruised to a 24-0 win over No. 16 Mississippi State, but now the focus turns to the health of Tagovailoa. After visiting the injury tent, he spent the rest of the game riding the exercise bike on the sideline while Mac Jones led the offense for much of the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa completed 14-of-21 passes for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception, which is only his second of the season but also his second in the last two games. For the record, Nick Saban said the quarterback "just got a little beat up" and "he's fine."
Mississippi State's defensive front played up to their standard against the best team in the country, constantly getting into the backfield and putting hits on Tagovailoa early. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop called a great game for the Bulldogs, who settled in and played winning football on that side of the ball for most of the game. After the first two scoring possessions for Alabama, Mississippi State didn't allow a drive of longer than 36 yards the rest of the game.
"We didn't have much rhythm today on offense," Saban told CBS Sports' Jamie Erdahl after the game. "They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, Tua got beat up a little bit. We had some adversity, and it's the first time we had adversity on offense all year long. You've got to learn how to respond to it and this will be a good learning lesson for us."
Unfortunately, there was never really a chance of a comeback or upset once Alabama went up 21-0 late in the second quarter.
Here are three things to know about the win.
1. Mississippi State's offense wasn't ready for this challenge: For all the success that the Bulldogs' defense had in this game, all of it was for not because of the inability to execute on offense. Fitzgerald was ineffective as a rushing threat and had just 125 passing yards, but even beyond the lack of production was a general sense of disorganization for most of the afternoon. There were a handful of times where Mississippi State had a chance to make this a more competitive game, and each time it seemed like the offense was the side that dropped the ball.
2. If Tua has to sit or is "beat up" again, Alabama can still beat Auburn: Next week is going to be an opportunity to allow Tagovailoa to get healthy as we expect the backups to play a lot more than they have been recently with The Citadel in town. But if Tagovailoa is unable to play or even knocked out again against Auburn in the regular-season finale, I think Alabama's defense has proven that it can carry the team in a way that we initially thought was the responsibility of the Tua-led offense. In a month where statements need to be made, the defense has made its statement on the field with two straight shutouts.
3. The blueprint to challenging Alabama has been laid out: Kevin Steele, Kirby Smart and Mel Tucker will all take note of the gameplan that Bob Shoop put in place to make the Tide stumble a little on offense. Nick Saban and his many analysts will be hard at work trying to plan a counterattack for whatever weaknesses will be revealed on the tape, but now a chess match that seemed very one-sided is a bit more level now that Tagovailoa hasn't looked invincible for a couple weeks.
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