Alabama vs. Mississippi State score, takeaways: No. 6 Tide throttle No. 24 Bulldogs in bounce-back win

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No. 6 Alabama didn’t have any problems dispatching No. 24 Mississippi State, throttling the visitors 30-6 for a victory coach Nick Saban’s team badly needed after falling 52-49 to undefeated Tennessee last week. The win continued Saban’s domination over Mississippi State and coach Mike Leach with the Crimson Tide now outscoring the Bulldogs 120-15 in their last three meetings.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young finished 21 of 35 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yarder to JoJo Earle in the first quarter that got the scoring started. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs broke off a 19-yard score early in the second quarter, and Young found Traeshon Holden for a 6-yarder one drive later to make it a 21-0 game at the half and essentially demoralize the visitors. Young’s night was even more impressive considering the majority of the offense was on his shoulders. 

Mississippi State had its chances, though. A 13-play, 57-yard drive on the Bulldogs’ second possession ended with a failed fourth-and-3 on the Alabama 15-yard line. They followed it up with a 15-play, 39-yard drive that resulted in a missed field goal that Alabama turned into Earle’s touchdown six plays later. A touchdown at the last second served as Mississippi State’s first in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, since 2014.

Young is the calming factor Alabama needs

Alabama was all business on Saturday, which is a direct result of its quarterback’s mindset. The calming influence of the junior superstar was on full display not only with his demeanor but his play on the field.

Young’s first touchdown throw, a 31-yarder to JoJo Earle, came after about eight seconds roaming in the pocket and directing traffic. It was the same story with a different verse on his second touchdown pass of the game when Holden broke free in the middle of the end zone after Young drifted right and away from pressure. Mississippi State seemed reluctant to pressure, and that allowed Young to buy time and find open receivers all night long. That’s what leaders do. 

Young could have come out and pressed. He could have come out with something to prove. He could have come out with the purpose of making a statement to the college football world. Instead, he trusted the process. Saban often uses the phrase “consistency in performance” when talking about his team’s preparation. Young had constant control of the offense, which will be a big factor moving forward considering the small margin for error that exists between now and the end of the season. 

The discipline is back

There’s no way to sugar coat it: Alabama has been a hot mess on the road. The 17 penalties the Tide committed in Knoxville last week were the most under Saban, and they also had 10 at Arkansas earlier this year and 15 at Texas in Week 2. 

Alabama is much more composed inside the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium, and it showed on Saturday. It committed just one penalty — an illegal formation on a fourth-and-5 punt in the first quarter which didn’t have any impact on the game whatsoever. 

The receivers also stepped up after struggling to hang on to the ball last week against the Volunteers. Saturday night, well, not so much. They didn’t record a single drop and consistently got open for Young whether he was in the pocket or on the run.

Mississippi State TD was a blessing in disguise

Bulldogs Running back Jo’quavious Marks went in untouched off left tackle from 1-yard out on the last play of the game to prevent the shutout. It was the first touchdown they’ve scored in Tuscaloosa since 2014 — a 4-yard strike from Dak Prescott to Jameon Lewis. Yes, it was that long ago. But it’s what happened after the score that was so telling. Defensive back Demarcco Hellams was furious with the secondary, Saban was clearly frustrated and it soured what was a brilliant defensive performance by the Crimson Tide. That’s a good thing. 

Fans will remember the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds for what they were, but Saban will use that last second as the most important moment of the game for his defense. Saban uses the phrase “don’t waste the failure” when things don’t go his way. You can bet money that he will exaggerate the “failure” of tonight’s defense this week in practice, even though it only lasted one second.

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