October 28, 2012 8:59:29 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - What did we learn?
- The question was answered early and often at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. Mississippi State University isn't ready yet to compete with the nation's elite programs.
Every possible adjective needed to describe worked just fine as top-ranked University of Alabama walked away with a more than decisive 38-7 victory over MSU in a battle of Southeastern Conference unbeatens. The loss represents the largest margin of defeat for MSU under fourth-year head coach Dan Mullen.
- We learned the Crimson Tide were the stronger team physically based on their 179-40 yardage advantage in the run game and the consistent amount of crunching hits on MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell.
- We learned Alabama (8-0, 5-0 in SEC) was faster than MSU judging by the 57-yard touchdown strike from Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron to wide receiver Kenny Bell to make it 14-0 just 12 minutes into the contest. MSU (7-1, 3-1 in SEC) hadn't allowed a play over 50 yards throughout the 2012 season until Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron planted his back foot for that play-action throw over the top of Bulldogs senior cornerback Johnthan Banks.
- We learned Alabama was the smarter team Saturday when one evaluates MSU being 0-for-2 in the red zone throughout the evening and committed three turnovers. It was consistent mistakes and miscues that continued to hinder any form of a comeback effort by the Bulldogs. In a second-half stretch, MSU fumbled a punt return and a kick return on back-to-back possessions.
- We learned the result stayed exactly the same for the Mississippi State University program as the Bulldogs dropped a overwhelming Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In the four games against Alabama under Mullen, MSU has been outscored 123-27.
- We learned The SEC's leading rusher never got rolling Saturday as MSU junior tailback LaDarius Perkins was held to just 38 yards on 15 carries in a 38-7 victory at Alabama.
Perkins, who came into the contest averaging 103.6 yards per game on the ground, never touched the ball after halftime.
Perkins became just another tailback that was shut down by the Alabama defensive front under defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Alabama leads the nation in surrendering only 10 individual 100-yard rushing games dating back to the 2005 season. Since Nick Saban arrived as the next Crimson Tide head coach, Alabama has allowed just five tailbacks to eclipse the 100-yard mark.
Perkins became the third straight MSU starting tailback to earn less than 90 yards rushing in a game against Alabama with the other two tailbacks (Anthony Dixon and Vick Ballard) being drafted into the National Football League.
- We learned MSU is now 0-6 all-time under head coach Dan Mullen when the Bulldogs rush for less than 100 yards as a team and 0-7 overall against teams in the Top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
= We learned Mississippi State junior quarterback Tyler Russell is one tough individual. The statistics say the Bulldogs signal caller was hurried 10 times in 30 pass attempts but it sure seemed like Russell was hit even more. And then he kept getting back up every time.
"What I saw out of my quarterback tonight is toughness," MSU senior offensive guard Tobias Smith said. "Tyler got hit and kept getting up and didn't look any different one time in the huddle."
- Mullen has yet to be shutout in 46 games as MSU head coach, the third-longest stretch without being shutout in school history (90 from 1978 to 1986; 76 from1990-1997; 45 from 1997-2001).
- Redshirt freshman Dak Prescott has accounted for a touchdown in three-straight games, finishing 4-for-6 for 40 yards and a touchdown pass in garbage time Saturday night.
- Now in his sixth season at Alabama, the Crimson Tide sports an 18-1 record (20-1 including two vacated victories in 2007) in October under Nick Saban. In 21 games over that span, the Crimson Tide has outscored its opponents 654-261.
- AJ McCarron continues to build his school record of passes without an interception. After passing Brodie Croyle's record of 190, McCarron ended the Mississippi State game with an active streak of 262 passing attempts without an interception. McCarron put himself directly in the Heisman Trophy conversation finishing Saturday's game 16-for-23 for 208 yards and two touchdowns
- The Alabama defense held Mississippi State to 256 total yards on Saturday night. Dating back to the 2011 Capital One Bowl against Michigan State, a span of 22 games, the Alabama defense has allowed just one opposing team to reach 300 total yards (Georgia Southern, 341). Teams have been held under 200 total yards 12 times, and less than 100 total yards twice. Rushing against the Tide has been even more difficult over that span as teams have been held to under 100 yards 18 times, under 50 yards 10 times and in negative yardage twice.
- Alabama's defense held Mississippi State to seven points on Saturday night. Since Nick Saban took over as head coach, the Crimson Tide has held opponents to 10 points or less 38 times since the start of the 2007 season.
What we heard?
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen:
- "That all falls on me as a head coach that we have our guys in position to make plays and tonight we didn't do that. It's amazing how the ball bounces to the team that plays hard."
- "The things we have done in the past when we needed to respond, we responded to a point and didn't finish it off tonight."
- "I think our team has done a great job handling the adversity of success and now we're going to see how we handle the adversity of failure."
- "Our guys are disappointed (because) they came in and expected to win the game. I'm sure nobody else probably out there expected us to win. Our fans, I love them, they believed in us. We didn't believe but our guys expected."
- "The little things made a huge difference and the little things to me come down to attention to detail. In these games, you have to have complete focus and execute at a high level for 60 minutes. We obviously didn't do that."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban:
- "I thought turnovers would be important in this game. I think it was very important that we didn't turn the ball over in the game and that we were plus three in turnovers. I think it made a huge difference in the game."
- "I think there were two really critical plays in the game. They drove the ball right down the field on us, and we get a blocked field goal early in the game which is a big play. I also think when they drove the ball 90-some yards on us and we got an interception - both those things we huge. The blocked field goal early in the game was certainly a boost for us. I think the first drive that we had offensively was a big momentum boost for us."
Mississippi State senior offensive lineman Tobias Smith
- "What I saw out of my quarterback tonight is toughness. Tyler got hit and kept getting up and didn't look any different one time in the huddle."
Mississippi State senior cornerback Johnthan Banks
- "(Alabama) is number one for a reason," Banks said. "They don't make mistakes, they have a great quarterback and their defense plays hard. I haven't played a team like that since I've been in college."
Alabama linebacker C.J. Moseley
- "We were just all about communication. Even though we played at home we have to make sure that we do the things we did to affect their offense, and that's what we did."
Texas A&M University (6-2, 3-2 in Southeastern Conference)
In a game that will celebrate the 2000 Independence Bowl, nicknamed The Snow Bowl due to a overnight snowstorm that hit Shreveport, La., on the night of the game, Texas A&M will make its first trip to Davis Wade Stadium.
Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more -- all in a little more than a half -- and the Aggies (No. 20 BCS, No. 22 AP) beat a struggling Auburn University team 63-21 Saturday.
On eight possessions led by Manziel, Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) scored seven touchdowns. The only non-scoring drive run by the phenom nicknamed "Johnny Football" ended with a missed 48-yard field goal by Taylor Bertolet on the final play of the first half.
The Aggies gained 671 total yards, the most ever allowed by Auburn, in their first game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Texas A&M, in its first season in the SEC, led 42-7 at halftime and 49-7 after Manziel's final possession.
The way the bowl selections are shaping up this game could determine if MSU returns to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville or makes an appearance at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT