STARKVILLE – Anthony Dixon’s load got bigger Saturday night.
With Christian Ducré and Arnil Stallworth sidelined with injuries, Dixon was the sole focus on Mississippi State’s running game in a 31-3 loss to No. 3 Alabama. He rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries; the rest of the team gained 33 yards on 15 carries.
He also wound up being the go-to guy in the passing game, leading the Bulldogs with six catches for a season-high 59 yards.
He now has 15 catches for 109 yards on the season to go with his 1,082 rushing yards.
“It was me doing my job,” Dixon said. “The coaches know I can catch, I know I can catch. It wasn’t nothing surprising to me, it was just something that coach asked me to do, and I did it.”
The next leading receiver was freshman Chad Bumphis, who had two catches for 28 yards.
Quarterback Tyson Lee said the game plan didn’t entail getting Dixon the ball so much through the air, but Alabama’s defense, which entered the game ranked second in the SEC in total defense, wasn’t giving up much downfield.
“That’s one thing that No. 24’s going to do, is leave it all on the field,” said Lee, “whether he’s running the ball, blocking, or catching.”
Ingram vs. Dixon
– A lot was made of the showdown between Dixon and Alabama tailback Mark Ingram, who entered the game as the SEC’s top two backs. Ingram is a Heisman frontrunner and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the country’s top running back.
Dixon is not, but he’s showed Saturday he’s in the same class as Ingram.
Ingram finished with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while Dixon gained 81 on 22 carries with no TDs. Ingram got 70 of his yards on a meaningless touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap the game’s scoring.
“They are going to break some tackles, but that’s when you pursue the ball and that’s why you need 11 guys running to the ball,” MSU linebacker Jamar Chaney said. “When he broke that run, it was just us not being in the right place at the right time.”
Ingram also had better help. Trent Richardson rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries, and quarterback Greg McElroy added 30 on four totes.
-Alabama received the ball to open the second half and got a 39-yard field goal from Leigh Tiffin to make it 17-0. The way Alabama’s defense was playing, it was too big a deficit for MSU to overcome.
–3 – Turnovers committed by MSU. Alabama committed none, and it’s now forced 16 over its last six games.
– MSU tries to keep its bowl hopes alive when it visits Arkansas (6-4, 3-4) in Little Rock for an 11:21 a.m. showdown. The Bulldogs must win out – including a victory against Ole Miss – to become bowl eligible.
– “You get to the red zone three or four times and you get three points, you can’t do that against a great team like Alabama.” – MSU quarterback Tyson Lee
– Chaney and linebacker Chris White led MSU with eight tackles apiece. … The 28-point defeat was MSU’s largest of the season. … State is now 1-5 at home, all the losses coming against teams currently ranked in the top 15 in the country. … MSU had 212 return yards, second-most this season (216 vs. Georgia Tech).
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal