Fourth Quarter Score Pushes Tide Past Top-Ranked Mississippi State
Alabama needed an answer to the problem Mississippi State was creating, and it came just when it needed it most.
After its 19-0 first-half lead was cut to one score at the start of the fourth quarter, a suddenly resurgent Crimson Tide offense led by Blake Sims and T.J. Yeldon pieced together one final touchdown-scoring drive in a nail-biting 25-20 victory over the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs.
“It was one of the greatest drives in Alabama history, probably, to go down there and make it a two-score game in the fourth quarter,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) dominated in the first half, scoring the first 19 points of the game until a Mississippi State field goal made it 19-3 just before the end of the half. Then, the Bulldogs went on a second-half rally that was reminiscent to Alabama’s 28-27 loss to No. 2 Auburn at home in 2010.
When the Crimson Tide offense stalled in the third quarter, Mississippi State’s, led by Dak Prescott, came alive. The Bulldogs opened the second half with a second field goal and added a touchdown two plays into the fourth quarter to cut it to 19-13 before Yeldon’s 7-yard touchdown run proved to be the decisive score.
“It was a little like the Auburn game, the Cam Newton game here,” Saban said. “We got ahead 24-(7) or whatever it was, and they came back in the second half. That’s what good teams do, that’s why they’re No. 1.”
On the ensuing possession after Alabama’s scoring drive, which took 6:07 off the game clock, the Bulldogs went as far as the Alabama 20 until Landon Collins ended the threat with the Crimson Tide’s third interception off Prescott. Prescott threw two other interceptions deep inside Alabama territory earlier in the game, including one in the end zone.
“It was very disappointing,” Prescott said. “We squandered a lot of points. We lost focus out in the game. You have to win in the red zone, but we squandered our chances.”
The Bulldogs scored once more with 15 seconds remaining, but Alabama recovered the desperation onside kick that followed to extend the series winning streak to seven. Mississippi State outgained Alabama 282-127 in the second half.
Prescott, a trendy name this season for the Heisman Trophy, was 27-of-48 for 290 yards and two touchdowns along with his three interceptions. He also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 82 yards on 22 carries, but it was an overall rough afternoon for the SEC’s No. 2 scoring offense (39.8 points per game) coming into Saturday’s showdown.
“It was a collective job, all together, like each and every week,” cornerback Cyrus Jones said. “We just try to prepare well in practice, study our game plan, and be on top of things mentally when we come in. That’s the biggest thing. We just went out there and tried to execute what we’ve been taught.”
Alabama scored first when Trey DePriest tackled Bulldogs running back Josh Robinson in the end zone for a safety, which was extended to 5-0 going into the second quarter. Amari Cooper caught a 4-yard touchdown with 7:45 left in the half, then set up Derrick Henry’s score on the next drive on a 50-yard reception that was stopped at the 1-yard line.
Sims completed 19-of-31 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown. Cooper caught eight of Sims’ passes for 88 yards. Yeldon, who was a game-time decision with an ankle injury, carried 16 times for 72 yards and a score.
Alabama hosts Western Carolina next Saturday at 3 p.m. for homecoming ahead of its regular-season finale at home against Auburn on Nov. 29.