STARKVILLE, Miss. — Alabama’s penalty problem is back.
UA started its football season on a pace that would be historic for the program in terms of penalties, racking up over 85 penalty yards in four of its first seven games. The previous two games were better, committing six for 60 yards against Arkansas and seven for 53 against LSU, but seven for 86 yards against Mississippi State has UA evaluating itself once more. The penalties did come in a 38-7 win, but two of those penalties have the Bulldogs first downs and five offensive penalties put MSU in difficult down-and-distance situations.
“We had some poor judgments and poor decisions in penalties, which created some negative situations we had to overcome. In some cases we did,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “It’s the same old stuff. You want guys to play with emotion but you don’t want guys to be emotional and make bad decisions, and we need to do a better job of that. The penalties have been a problem. It’s very disappointing to me that we can’t make better decisions about when the whistle blows to stop playing. We’re just going to keep working on it; obviously we’re emphasizing it.”
Limping members of the Crimson Tide were a frequent sight on Saturday.
The most prominent injury was to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, whose hip injury forced him to miss the second half while he was transported to Birmingham for scans and tests.
“He has a hip injury, it’s going to be evaluated. I don’t think it’s related to any other injury he had, it’s just a freak thing that you seldom see,” Saban said. “I don’t really have anything else to say about that, we’re just going to go from there.”
“Godspeed to him and his entire family, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and we hope it’s not so serious that it has any long-term effect on his future as a player.”
UA also saw two defensive line starters get injured: Raekwon Davis (sprained ankle) and D.J. Dale (twisted knee). Davis got hurt early in the game, but returned just to get injured again; Dale never returned from his injury and was seen limping off the field after the game.
Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III has bruised ribs, Saban said.
Scoring off of turnovers
UA’s opportunistic offense struck again in the first quarter, when Mississippi State’s first offensive play from scrimmage was a Shane Lee interception of Bulldog quarterback Tommy Stevens. On the first play of its ensuing possession, UA schemed running back Najee Harris open for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Scoring on turnovers has been a regular occurrence for Alabama. Of the 16 times this season it has taken over after a turnover (not including special teams or defensive scores), UA has scored touchdowns eight times and field goals three times. One of the five failures to score came because the half ended.
Alabama’s 21-3 lead at the end of the first quarter was the handiwork of Harris, who scored two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown.
As he went, he became the first UA player to score three touchdowns in the first quarter. It was also his sixth receiving touchdown of the season, which set a new school record for single-season receiving touchdowns by a running back. Finally, he became the first UA player since Mark Ingram in 2009 to have a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in consecutive games.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson