November 14, 2010 1:45:00 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For the first couple of drives Saturday, Mississippi State looked ready to match Alabama on its home turf.
Though Chris Relf was picked off on the team''s first drive and squandered a blazing start into Alabama territory, MSU earned a three-and-out on defense and scored first through Derek DePasquale''s 24-yard field goal on the next drive.
After that, a floodgate of miscues stymied what little bit of offense the No. 17 Bulldogs (7-3, 3-3) could generate.
State''s third series of the game typified the type of night it would have, having two straight penalties stymie what could have been two first downs.
On its fifth drive, which started at its own 12, the Bulldogs managed two first downs before MSU followed with a false start. The drive ended with tight end Brandon Henderson dropping a first down pass at the sideline.
"No matter where we went down the field rushing the ball, it''s hard to do what you can when you''re first and 15, second and 20, whatever," MSU center J.C. Brignone said. "We take it upon ourselves to do things like that, and when we''ve got mental errors like that we can''t produce like we normally produce. We don''t run the plays that we normally run."
MSU''s offense gave up five sacks and was penalized seven times in the game.
Coming into the game, MSU head coach Dan Mullen said the Bulldogs dedicated extra reps to the passing game during their bye-week. But Relf, who had four passes dropped, never looked comfortable in the pocket. His lone vertical throw was his interception, which was into double-coverage.
Mullen had seen that kind of sloppy performance just one other time this season.
"Last time we made mistakes like that was in Baton Rouge (loss to LSU)," he said. "Obviously, the results are similar."
And for MSU''s heralded defense, holding Alabama to three-and-outs on two of its first three possessions was as close it would come to controlling the game.
Alabama''s three long scoring plays 45, 78 and 56 yards were eerily similar, exposing one-on-one matchups down the right sideline.
MSU''s otherwise stellar defensive displayed was nixed by its inability to keep Alabama out of the open field.
Slive, Stricklin trade barbs
Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive broke his silence in the Cameron Newton allegations Friday, essentially blaming Mississippi State for dragging its feet in providing thorough information.
Slive told The Birmingham News on Friday that after MSU initially reported the potential violations, which allege Newton''s father, Cecil, tried to solicit money for his son''s signature, it failed to properly follow up with the league office despite attempts to gain more details from the school.
Wednesday, MSU released a statement saying it didn''t follow up with more information until July because "time-consuming eligibility issues" regarding basketball players Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost.
Slive cleared the air on the league being rooted to the stalled pace of the investigation of the Auburn quarterback, which is being handled by the NCAA.
"There was timely follow-up from our office between January and July," Slive told The Birmingham News. "As Mississippi State indicated, these requests were not fulfilled. We followed up in a timely way. Given the need for people to have a month or more to do that, we asked again. In six years, we''ve never had a problem with that."
Saturday, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin responded Slive''s shot at the school, confirming extra benefits were sought in Newton''s recruitment. He also stated the university did not provide information regarding other schools.
"MSU alerted the Southeastern Conference about the offer," Stricklin''s statement read. "MSU did not have any specific incriminating information about any other school, and thus could not provide any.
"MSU has cooperated fully and completely with the NCAA from the time it began asking for our assistance, and looks forward to providing any and all help in this ongoing investigation."
Newton started Saturday in Auburn''s come-from-behind 49-31 win over Georgia. Newton had 148 yards passing, 151 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
Auburn officials were mum Friday on whether Newton would play after being informed by the NCAA of possible eligibility issues with the player.