Recap: Alabama hangs on to win 25-20 over Mississippi St.
TUSCALOOSA– In what has been called “the biggest game of the year”, there was no disappointment in that statement as the Alabama Crimson Tide sneaked by a win against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs, 25-20. This game had so many implications on it; (playoffs, seeding, respect), and while both teams came to impress; Alabama was crowned the winner.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these players tonight” Head Coach Nick Saban said.
The Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1, 5-1 SEC), have been nothing but close to perfect at home in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and tonight was no different. With a total of 335 yards on a very talent Bulldog defense, the Tide have re-emerged as a true threat to make it into the college football playoff. After a dominant first half led by quarterback Blake Sims, there was no doubt Alabama had made a statement early.
“We had the opportunity to do something big,” Sims said. “we’re just happy for the way things are going right now.”
Sims finished the night 19-31 with 221 passing yards and a touchdown pass. Sims wasn’t the only player that led Alabama to a great win. Receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White both pushed their bodies to the limit as they helped push their way forward into Bulldog territory. Cooper finished the night with eight receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown while White had four receptions for 40 yards. Alabama proved tonight that Amari Cooper wasn’t the only threat on offense.
“DeAndrew White did a great job stepping up for us,” Sims said. “After the way he played tonight, everyone should stop saying all we got is Amari Cooper.”
Probably the biggest question of the night was how much running back TJ Yeldon would play today. Yeldon was injured in last weeks showdown against LSU and was questionable with a knee injury. While it might have said questionable, Yeldon answered that question by electrifying the field every time he got the ball. He finished the night with 16 rushes for 72 yards and what would end up being the game-winning touchdown. Yeldon might have been hurt, but his dedication was at 100% tonight.
“When you have number 4 in the backfield, it’s awesome,” Center Ryan Kelly said. “we’re grateful we had him back there today cause he did a great job.”
Alabama’s defense also came out strong tonight. The Crimson Tide defense was forced with the task to take on a man who could possibly win the coveted Heisman award. While Prescott was able to throw two great touchdowns, the Crimson Tide defense also forced a safety and three interceptions, including a late one by Landon Collins that helped seal the deal. The Crimson Tide gave up 428 total yards, but also really made Prescott feel pressured and out of their comfort zone.
“With a quarterback like Prescott we know he’s gonna want to run the ball so we have to make him pay the price every time he runs it.” defensive end Jonathon Allen said. “Getting in his face and making him throw a bad ball is just as important as getting a sack.”
While both teams struggled at first to hang onto the ball, Alabama finally got their momentum going in the second with a four yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. Next drive, Alabama continued to dominate with another touchdown, this time by Derrick Henry. Some thought by halftime with the score 19-3, that this game was over. Still, some dogs have a nasty bite, and Mississippi State definitely had that bite and was ready to attack.
“You know at half-time when you play teams like this that they are gonna come out in the second half regardless of what happens.” Coach Saban said. “That’s why they are a good team. Thats the reason they are number 1.”
Alabama allowed the Bulldogs to pull in by six before the drive which Coach Saban referred to as “probably one of the most important drives in Alabama history”. Blake Sims was forced into third down three times, converting two of them by using his legs to get the first down. From then on out it was the TJ Yeldon show as he dodged, dipped, ducked and juked his way into the end zone on an eight yard run.
“I just did what I had to do,” Sims said. “I had to trust the guys to get open and if they didn’t, I had to try and use my god gift ability to run.”
Of course things wouldn’t be that easy in a game like this. In a stadium filled with over 100,000 fans watching, Dak Prescott led his Mississippi State Bulldogs back into the game with two late touchdown passes to put the Bulldogs within five. Then, with a prayer of luck and only 15 seconds left; Mississippi State tried for an onside. As the ball flew and the heart beats of fans skipped a beat; Alabama freshman Tony Brown recovered the ball, sealing the game.
“It was momentum for us,” wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “With it being so late in the game, that play definitely helped us out.
Alabama was able to convert when they needed to and was able to hold onto the ball to give them the lead. While Mississippi State might have out yarded them 428-335, Alabama was able to hold onto the ball unlike the Bulldogs. The defense was able to make a heisman-calliber quarterback miss his targets and the offense was able to convert on key plays. When Tuesday night comes around, there might be a few extra votes for Alabama as being the top seed; and some players definitely agree with that statement.
“I think we definitely should get looked at to be the number one team in the country,” cornerback Cyrus Jones. “People always tell you if you want to be the best you got to beat the best.”
In the end, Alabama came out on top securing themselves the top spot in the SEC west. While there are multiple people to thank for this win, Coach Nick Saban had a special thank you for one group; the fans. In the blistering 36 degrees weather, the Crimson Tide faithful remained firm in their seats, cheering on their boys in red. Coach Saban was very impressed with his fan base and how they made the stadium shake with joy.
“The atmosphere we had in the stadium tonight, that’s really what college football is all about.” Coach Saban said. “I just wanted to say thank you to all the fans and supporters who made such a great atmosphere for out team.”
Alabama now has to face Western Carolina before taking on Auburn in the Iron Bowl. While this might be a trap game for the Tide, luck might be on their side. The Crimson Tide have won their last 14 games at home and are a perfect 5-0 this season. While anything is possible, luck might just stay sprinkled over the field of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Cole Thompson is the Alabama beat writer for WVUA-FM. Follow him on twitter at @ColeThompson32