Alabama Defeats MSU 28-14

Alabama Defeats MSU 28-14

Behind the play of their 2nd ranked defense and the exceptional play of senior quarterback Tyler Watts, the 11th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide pulled out a 28-14 victory over an injury-plagued Mississippi State Bulldogs team.<P> Tyler Watts threw for 223 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, but it was the defense that bailed the 11th-ranked Crimson Tide -- twice.

"We expected a physical, smashmouth type game and that is exactly what it was," said Mississippi State assistant head coach Jim Tompkins. "They are probably the most physical team that we have played all year."

Watts hooked up with Triandos Luke for two touchdowns, including a 36-yarder on fourth-and-11 to give the Crimson Tide (8-2, 5-1 SEC) the final margin with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

"The (touchdown) that really hurt us was the one in the third quarter," said Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill. "If we had defended that one, we may have had a chance to win the game."

The nation's No. 2 defense took over from there, and the unit gave up just 70 yards and five first downs after halftime.

"In the second half, we took control of the game," Tide defensive end Antwan Odom said. "We dominated like we are supposed to."

The Bulldogs (3-6, 0-5), who were three-touchdown underdogs, twice couldn't cash in on big special-teams plays in the fourth quarter. First, Kevin Dockery blocked Lane Bearden's punt, giving Mississippi State the ball at the Alabama 26. Kindal Moorehead stopped Fred Reid short on a fourth-down run.

"When we got in position we just didn't execute," said Sherrill. "We had fourth down and we missed it by half a yard."

The Tide went three-and-out again, but Bearden -- who has played four straight games with a torn knee ligament in his kicking leg -- had to reach for a high snap. His pass was short of the first down.

"We have been close to blocking (a punt) for several weeks," said Tompkins. "Today, we did."

The Bulldogs couldn't move the ball from the Alabama 15. Kevin Fant's fourth-down pass fell short of Ray Bivines.

"Four downs and we don't convert," Sherrill said about his team not taking advantage of its last game opportunities.

The Tide, which outgained Mississippi State 409-246, again turned it over to the defense after failing to move the ball.

The Bulldogs got the ball back with 3:07 left and no timeouts. Charles Jones intercepted backup quarterback Kyle York's pass to end their already-dim hopes of a comeback.

"Our defense continues to do that, week in and week out," Franchione said. "Offensively, we got one score on the board and kind of did what we needed to do. It wasn't a bad day." Kevin Fant was 19-of-33 passing for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he couldn't get the ball downfield.

Watts went 16-of-22 against the nation's fifth-ranked pass defense, leading three scoring drives of 80-plus yards. He was 5-of-5 for 63 yards on the Tide's final scoring drive, throwing a perfect pass over Luke's right shoulder along the sideline.

"This was a lot closer football game than a lot of people thought," Watts said. "I was just trying not to make the mistakes that will get us beat. We try to take advantage of what the defense gives us."

Watts also hit Luke on a 15-yarder and Ray Hudson on a 32-yarder to cap the Tide's first two drives.

"(Watts) is a good field general," said Tompkins. "He makes good decisions. They call him the heart and soul of their football team and that is probably true."

Santonio Beard ran for 68 yards, and Shaud Williams scored on a 4-yard run for Alabama, which has won four straight league games by a combined score of 134-43.

Both teams scored on their first three possessions of the game. The difference was that Alabama got three touchdowns, and Mississippi State twice had to settle for field goals.

"Early in the game (the option play) gave us trouble," said Tompkins. "We were not in sync early in the ball game. I thought late in the ballgame we got to where we could stop it."

Mississippi State got a 2-yard touchdown pass from Fant to Bivines, and two field goals from Brent Smith against the nation's second-ranked defense. The Bulldogs converted a 2-pointer after the TD.

"The good thing is the players played hard and never gave up and that is probably the most productive thing," Sherrill said about his team.

Alabama had 12 penalties for 121 yards -- including one unsportsmanlike conduct flag against Franchione in the first half and quite a few holding calls -- but didn't commit a turnover.

"It looked like they were pretty flagrant with (their holding) today," said Tompkins. "It was out in the open where everybody could see it. Fortunately, they called a few of them today. Sometimes, we don't get any of the calls."

MSU's freshman running back Jerious Norwood went out of the game due to a high ankle sprain.

"We won't know until later in the week," said Sherrill when asked if Jerious will be able to play against Tennessee.

The Bulldogs face the Tennessee Volunteers next Saturday. Game time is yet to be determined due to television.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING
Mississippi St. - Norwood 9-58, Reid 11-30, Walker 4-19, Bivines 1-3, Fant 6-(minus 1), York 1-(minus 2).
Alabama - Beard 14-68, Williams 6-44, Watts 14-27, Hudson 3-21, McLain 3-5.

PASSING
Mississippi St. - Fant 19-33-1-127, York 2-5-1-12.
Alabama - Watts 16-22-0-223, Croyle 2-2-0-21, Bearden 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING
Mississippi St. - Jenkins 4-35, Bivines 4-33, Lee 4-21, Grindle 3-22, Jones 2-9, Walker 1-13, Tubbs 1-7, Milons 1-0, Reid 1-(minus 1).
Alabama - Luke 7-128, Collins 3-21, Fulgham 3-20, Hudson 2-37, Johnston 2-24, Williams 1-14.


Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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