By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
MSU’s offense moved the ball well at times, in particular on a 16-play, 97-yard drive in the third quarter, its longest drive of the season. But that possession ended with an interception in the end zone, preserving Alabama’s 24-0 lead.
Quarterback Tyler Russell was at his best on that drive, completing 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards. He completed passes to five different teammates.
MSU’s defense couldn’t get off the field early, as Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three possessions. The Crimson Tide was 2-of-3 on third down conversions and also converted a fourth down on the first scoring drive.
After crossing the 50 on its first two possessions, State’s offense went three-and-out on four consecutive possessions and saw another drive cut short by the halftime horn.
Keys for victory
Evaluating the keys for victory in Saturday’s GameDay section:
1. Slow the run: MSU gave up 179 yards on the ground. While it slowed down Eddie Lacy (10 carries, 26 yards), T.J. Yeldon gained 84 on 10 carries and scored a touchdown. He finished off Alabama’s first scoring drive with runs of 10 and 11 yards.
2. Pass it around: Russell and Dak Prescott were a combined 19 of 36 and completed passes to nine different players. But aside from a couple of long catches by Chris Smith, MSU didn’t break off yards in big chunks in the passing game.
Russell showed toughness by standing in and delivering passes despite taking hits, but he didn’t always have time to go through his reads.
3. Be perfect (or close): MSU wasn’t anywhere close to perfect. Coach Dan Mullen said Sunday that there were “significant breakdowns” during the early going. MSU also lost the turnover battle, 3-0, committing all three miscues in the second half to kill any hopes of a big comeback.
TE Chris Smith: He had another strong game, catching three passes for 73 yards. His 31-yard catch on MSU’s first drive got the ball into Alabama’s red zone, and his 28-yard grab accomplished the same on that 97-yard drive. Over his last two games, the senior has 10 catches for 139 yards.
It was a disappointing effort for MSU, especially after all the pregame hype. But at 7-1 overall (3-1 SEC), the No. 17-ranked Bulldogs are still in excellent position to have a great season and reach a top-tier bowl game.