Bulldogs lose despite Tide’s lethargic offense, four turnovers

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Mississippi State's Jameon Lewis, defended by Geno Smith, can't quite reach the ball in the corner of the end zone in Saturday's loss to Alabama.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Mississippi State’s Jameon Lewis, defended by Geno Smith, can’t quite reach the ball in the corner of the end zone in Saturday’s loss to Alabama.

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Alabama’s Nick Saban referred to Mississippi State as the best 4-5 team in the country in the week leading up to Saturday night’s game.

The Bulldogs held true to that statement by forcing four turnovers and holding the Crimson Tide to their lowest point total of the season.

But it would still not be enough as top-ranked Alabama came out ahead 20-7, improving to 10-0 on the year and 7-0 in SEC action.

“I thought our kids did some good things, but give credit to Alabama,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “They showed why they’re the No. 1 team in the country. Their kids made plays in critical moments and we didn’t. We made a lot of plays tonight and our kids played hard but they made more plays in every phase of the game.”

Alabama (9-0) totaled 383 yards on the evening but tossed up two interceptions and fumbled twice.

AJ McCarron completed 18 of 32 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and was picked off twice. T.J. Yeldon carried 24 times for 160 yards.

Alabama’s first drive of 14 plays produced a 43-yard field goal by Cade Foster.

The Bulldogs had a chance to answer with 5:30 to play before halftime but Evan Sobiesk hooked a 23-yard field goal.

Can’t close half

For the sixth time this season, Mississippi State surrendered a score to its opponent just before halftime.

The Crimson Tide took over with 2:49 left and marched 78 yards in six plays and scored when AJ McCarron connected with Brian Vogler on a 18-yard touchdown with 20-seconds remaining to go up 10-0.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Mississippi State came up with four turnovers, including two interceptions by Taveze Calhoun, but couldn't take advantage.

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Mississippi State came up with four turnovers, including two interceptions by Taveze Calhoun, but couldn’t take advantage.

The Bulldogs caught a break early in the second half. Kendrick Market popped the ball free from Yeldon and it was scooped up by Beniquez Brown near midfield.

Tyler Russell guided the offense into the end zone from there but fumbled into the end zone after a 6-yard run. MSU right tackle Charles Siddoway was able to fall on it in the end zone for the score, leaving Alabama with a 10-7 lead.

The Tide answered with a nine-play, 77-yard drive. McCarron tossed an 11-yard touchdown to Kevin Norwood to go back ahead by 10.

Alabama added a 45-yard field goal by Foster early in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

The Bulldogs finished with 197 yards of offense but were limited to just 53 yards on the ground.

Russell completed 15 of 24 passes for 144 yards but left the game with 9:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, injuring his shoulder on his lone interception.

Freshman debuts

True freshman Damian Williams went the rest of the way behind center, as Dak Prescott missed the game with a shoulder injury sustained last week against Texas A&M. Williams did not complete a pass in five attempts and was sacked once.

“I knew early in the week I was going to get at least a couple of snaps,” Williams said. “I credit coach (Les) Koenning for preparing me. (Alabama) was fast and they were big. I was just trying to make my decisions as fast as possible.”

Malcolm Johnson led MSU with six catches for 84 yards.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com