Alabama defense buries Mississippi StateBy Terrin Waack | 11/12/2016 9:04pm
It didn’t take long for Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to feel the wrath of Alabama’s defense. In fact, he took a hard hit during the Bulldogs’ opening drive Saturday, well before Alabama pummeled Mississippi State, 51-3, in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Facing a third-and-six situation, Fitzgerald didn’t have time to make a decision before Alabama’s Tim Williams was in his face. The 6-foot-4, 252-pound linebacker launched himself at Fitzgerald and brought him down for a loss of 11 yards.
“Once one person make a play, we feed off of it,” linebacker Reuben Foster said. “All of us do. When one person does great, we all want to be great.”
While Fitzgerald took his time to get back up, Williams was up in seconds and amped over his accomplishment. The senior now has a team-leading eight sacks this seasons, bringing him to 20 for his career. He now has sole possession of eighth place on Alabama’s all-time sack list. He’s just half a sack away from seventh place.
Linebacker Ryan Anderson also had a sack for a loss of 10 yards. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis made one for a loss of 8 yards, too.
“I was really pleased with the way our defense handled Mississippi state’s offensive attack,” coach Nick Saban said, “especially their quarterback, who is such a good runner on the quarterback run plays.”
Fitzgerald was only able to produce 15 rushing yards on 11 attempts for an average of a simple 1.4 yards per carry. He completed 10 of 33 passes for 145 yards. He had a long 41-yard pass, but otherwise was limited. The starter was eventually replaced by Damian Williams, who completed 6-of-10 passes for 35 yards. Fitzgerald was sacked twice. The backup went down once.
The Bulldogs’ leading rusher was running back Aeris Williams. He had 11 carries for 56 yards, cranking out an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. Wide receiver Donald Gray was the target of Fitzgerald’s long shot, and he finished with three receptions for 76 yards.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Gray said. “Their DBs are pretty fast and have great closing speed. We got beat. The best man wins and they obviously won.”
In total, Mississippi State tallied 94 yards on the ground and 180 through the air for a total of 274 offensive yards. That’s less than half of the amount the Bulldogs produced at home the weekend prior.
In the midst of defeating then-No. 4 Texas A&M, Mississippi State coughed up 574 total offensive yards. The Crimson Tide kept that upset in mind.
“We prepared right,” Foster said. “The team loved the team, and the opponent was great, too. We try to limit our mistakes and play hard. We try to please our coach.”
And they did.
Foster led the Crimson Tide with six total tackles and a tackle for loss. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, linebacker Rashaan Evans and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson also all had six total tackles each.
The Crimson Tide defense forced the Bulldogs to call upon their backup punter, Kody Schexnayder, seven times, and he punted for 210 yards and a 30-yard average.
Even then, Mississippi State went for it on fourth down four times, regardless if it was facing a longer distance. The Bulldogs never converted a fourth down to a first down, and they found success on just seven of 20 third-down conversions.
Alabama buried Mississippi State’s offense. It never found the end zone, and it only made it into the red zone once. At that point, however, all the Bulldogs could do was nail a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter.
“You know, there’s a reason they’re No. 1 in the country,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “They play like it.”