No. 5 Alabama bounced back from its loss against Texas A&M by trouncing Mississippi State 49-9 on Saturday night thanks to a vicious defensive effort and explosive offensive performance. The all-around game from the Crimson Tide left no doubt that they remain the SEC West favorites and are still a threat to repeat as national champions, despite the stunning stumble against the Aggies last week.
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions to pace the offense, while running back Brian Robinson Jr. accounted for three total touchdowns. Defensively, linebacker Will Anderson racked up four sacks as the Tide repeatedly limited the Bulldogs to field goals with the help of a pass rush that racked up seven sacks.
Mississippi State trailed just 21-6 at halftime, but that's when Alabama's offensive explosiveness began to show. Wide receiver Jameson Williams took an intermediate route from Young 75 yards for a touchdown on the Tide's first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Robinson followed later in the quarter with a 51-yard touchdown reception of his own to put the game out of reach.
Mississippi State QB Will Rogers completed 35 of 55 passes but threw three interceptions, including two in the first quarter that put an early damper on the Bulldogs' chances of snapping a losing streak to Alabama that dates back to 2007. Mississippi State finished with -1 yards rushing.
1. Alabama's defense responds
A week after Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada lit up Alabama in the first half of the Aggies' upset victory, the Crimson Tide came out with purpose on defense on Saturday and sustained it for the entire game. Rogers entered with just two interceptions on 284 pass attempts for the season, but Alabama forced him to match that total in the first quarter. Josh Jobe ended Mississippi State's first series with an interception, which led to an Alabama touchdown. Jordan Battle followed up later in the quarter with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown. It wasn't just the Alabama secondary playing inspired football, though. With the Bulldogs driving before halftime, Will Anderson picked up his second sack of the half -- and Alabama's fourth of the half -- to force the Bulldogs into a field goal. In the second half, Mississippi State racked up just 99 total yards as Alabama squeezed the life out of its SEC West foe.
2. Explosive attack
The Crimson Tide were averaging just 3.33 plays per game of 25 or more yards entering the game. Their total of 20 such plays on the season was tied for 53rd nationally. But on Saturday, Alabama had four plays of 25 yards or longer on touchdowns alone. First was a 46-yard touchdown reception by John Metchie. Then came Williams' 75-yard touchdown reception and Robinson's 51- yard scoring catch. Finally, Traseshon Holden put the finishing touches on the victory by taking a Young pass 29 yards for a score with 6:20 remaining. The Alabama offense may not have the vertical threat it did last year with Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith at receiver, but Saturday was a reminder that its talent at the skill positions remains some of the best in the country.
3. Mississippi State's roller coaster
If the 2021 season feels like it's been a roller coaster ride under second-year coach Mike Leach at Mississippi State, its because it has been. The Bulldogs needed late-game heroics to beat Louisiana Tech in their season opener before handling No. 22 NC State with relative ease the following week. Then came losses to Memphis and LSU before a victory at Texas A&M two weeks ago. Now, after losing to Alabama, the Bulldogs are 3-3 and will be fighting for bowl eligibility. Games against Vanderbilt and Tennessee State should be winnable for this team. Aside from those, however, Mississippi State will need at least one win from the group of Kentucky, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss to reach six wins. Saturday was an awful showing for the Bulldogs, but they did pick up 24 first downs. If this team can get past the wounded pride of an Alabama beatdown, it will reach a bowl.