There was a chill at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday that had nothing to do with the cold front that blew in overnight.
For whatever reason — a good Mississippi State defense, an emotional letdown after the previous week’s win against LSU, a banged-up Tua Tagovailoa — Alabama’s NCAA-best offense didn’t quite seem to have the same spark, although there was more than enough to lift the No. 1 Crimson Tide to a 24-0 shutout victory over No. 16 Mississippi State.
“We struggled a little out there offensively,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “It will be a good lesson for us.
“I was concerned that there might be a little bit of an emotional letdown after LSU and that might have been the case.”
The Crimson Tide defense, which has recorded back-to-back shutouts of SEC opponents for the first time since blanking Kentucky and Vanderbilt in 1980, lowered the tension level by holding MSU to just 169 total yards.
Tagovailoa, who left the game after a hit to the front of the knee in the third quarter caused tightness in the leg, did not have his usual numbers, completing 14 of 21 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Josh Jacobs was the day’s offensive standout, rushing for 97 yards and one touchdown and catching a 12-yard pass from Tagovailoa for the other.
Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) relied heavily on the running game in the first quarter as it dominated time of possession and got short rushing touchdowns from Damien Harris and Jacobs to take a 14-0 lead.
Jacobs’ 12-yard touchdown catch with 3:26 to go in the second quarter extended the Crimson Tide lead to 21-0 and a rout seemed possible. Instead, the UA offense seemed to freeze for the rest of the game.
Mississippi State (6-4, 2-4) had a chance to score late in the half, but an apparent touchdown catch was negated by a much-discussed illegal block penalty and the Bulldog drive came to naught on a missed field goal as the half expired.
The only scoring in the second half came on a 49-yard field goal by Crimson Tide kicker Joseph Bulovas.
MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards but was sacked five times by the swarming Alabama defense.
With Tagovailoa out and Jalen Hurts still recovering from a knee injury, third-team quarterback Mac Jones played the entire fourth quarter for the Crimson Tide. Saban did not immediately announce quarterback plans for next Saturday’s game against FCS opponent The Citadel.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.