STARKVILLE, Miss. — It was all they could do to block out the noise, but they did.
With the thunderous echoes of cowbell and an overcharged sound system ringing in his ears, Jalen Hurts stood in the pocket with an all-out blitz coming right up the middle and gunned a quick slant to Calvin Ridley for 31 yards that converted a third-and-15.
A play later, Hurts again stood in the pocket and rifled a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Smith that completed an Alabama come-from-behind 31-24 win against No. 18 Mississippi State on Saturday night in Davis Wade Stadium.
“Sometimes you win a game like this and it does a lot for everyone coming together,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
The win maintains Alabama’s one-game lead over Auburn in the SEC West. The two teams meet Nov. 25. The winner will claim the West division crown.
For much of the game, No. 1 Alabama was outplayed, bullied on both sides of the ball by a more physical Bulldogs team. The UA offensive line didn’t open many holes between the tackles and the defensive line, and linebackers got whipped by an aggressive Mississippi State offensive line as well as physical runners in running back Aeris “A-Train” Williams and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
With about a minute gone in the fourth quarter, Alabama’s offense had possessed the ball 11:29 of the nearly 46 minutes played.
But something changed in the final quarter, as the Crimson Tide found some success running the ball on the perimeter of the defense and the passing game clicked when it had to as the offense produced scoring drives of 82 and 68 yards to tie the game and win it, respectively.
Junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley had his best game of the season with five receptions for 171 yards, including grabs of 63, 61 and 31 yards. Ridley never found the end zone, but those three big grabs on three separate drives helped the offense find the end zone each time, resulting in 21 points.
Alabama rushed for 202 yards (5.3 per carry) and the running game produced three touchdowns, one each by Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs and Hurts.
Jacobs provided what Saban described as a “spark” in the fourth quarter with runs of 11, 13 and 7 yards on a drive that tied the game at 24-24 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The defense then got a much-needed stop to get the ball back to its offense.
On its next offensive possession, Alabama again drove the field but Andy Pappanastos’ 41-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright for his first miss since the Ole Miss game on Sept. 30.
After another defensive stop, the passing game won it. Hurts completed a throw of 15 yards to Ridley before again finding Ridley and Smith to give Alabama the win.
Hurts was 10 of 19 passing for 242 yards, his second-most productive throwing game of the season (he had 248 yards against Colorado State).
During his postgame press conference, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Ridley was the different in the game.
“(Ridley) was the best player on the field tonight,” he said.
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.