Mississippi State had their share of opportunities against No. 1 Alabama, but with injuries to their top two quarterbacks, the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on a number of uncharacteristic Crimson Tide miscues.
A.J. McCarron had not thrown an interception since Sept. 28, a span of more than 130 pass attempts, but the Heisman hopeful threw two interceptions and took his first sack in 128 pass attempts when Chris Jones brought him down. Alabama also put the ball on the ground twice with fumbles by T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake.
That’s the blueprint you need to execute to pull off the upset against Alabama. However, Mississippi State didn’t have the firepower on offense to do anything with the short field.
Tyler Russell started for the injured Dak Prescott, but was largely ineffective prior to the injury. Without their leading rusher, the Bulldogs were unable to get any momentum on the ground as they picked up 51 yards on 26 carries.
This put the Bulldogs in unmanageable third downs against the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation, and you have to wonder how different things would have looked with Prescott out there. He is the team’s best player by far and was sorely missed tonight.
He has four 100-yard rushing games this season and the one-dimensional Russell just didn’t pose a legit threat to Alabama. The Bulldogs had four drives into Alabama territory that resulted in zero points; had Prescott been healthy, I’d say they would have gotten 10-14 points on those drives, and that was the difference in the 20-7 game.
When you’re playing Alabama, you have to play near perfect football to even compete with the two-time defending champions, and Dan Mullen’s team didn’t do that on Saturday night. It didn’t help that they were without their top two quarterbacks against the best team in the country, but excuses won’t make the loss any easier to swallow.
This was the 15th straight loss to a ranked opponent for Mississippi State as Mullen continues to search for a signature win. If you ask the fans leaving David Wade Stadium tonight, they may say his time is running out for opportunities.
Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and Google and email him at SchmidtPatrick@gmail.com for media inquiries.