STARKVILLE – Alabama’s defensive backs were around the ball all game. Mississippi State’s often found themselves nowhere near it.
A couple of big plays in the passing game aided Alabama’s 31-3 win Saturday night.
The first touchdown of the night came on a 45-yard pass from Greg McElroy to Darius Hanks in the second quarter. Hanks was wide open and cruised down the left sideline.
In the fourth quarter, Julio Jones found himself flying solo down the middle of the field and reeled in a 48-yard TD from McElroy.
“You can’t take a snap off and look away from your keys the coaches tell you to read. That can never happen,” linebacker Jamar Chaney said. “When it’s wide open, that’s a busted coverage.”
McElroy finished 13 of 18 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was not sacked.
As for Alabama’s secondary, it was smothering. MSU quarterback Tyson Lee was 9 of 17 for 99 yards with two interceptions. Cornerback Marquis Johnson tipped away two long passes intended for O’Neal Wilder in the end zone, one thrown my Lee, one by Chris Relf. Johnson also intercepted Relf late.
“Our guys have got to go make plays on those balls,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “Interceptions off of tipped passes, those have to be caught. Those are the plays that we need to make.”
Mark Barron had both of Lee’s picks, the first at Alabama’s 12-yard line to kill a promising first-quarter drive, and now has six on the season to lead the SEC.
‘A terrible pass’
“Just a terrible pass,” Lee said of his first interception. “The safety made a great play, but I just made a terrible read, terrible throw.”
Lee , who now has 13 interceptions on the season, added, “If we had converted that, who knows what could’ve happened in that drive.”
MSU converted on just 2 of 13 third downs, while Alabama was 4 of 11. State did convert a pair of fourth downs with tailback Anthony Dixon.
“We just weren’t able to make the big plays when we needed to, and it came down to that today,” Lee said.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal