Alabama football talked the talk after A&M loss, and walked the walk against Mississippi State | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

It wasn’t the roaring return to form of angry Valkyries descending from the sky in full war-wrath. But it was a win. Whether “easy” wins are possible in the SEC West or not, Alabama football’s 49-9 blowout of Mississippi State came close. It also competed the baffling transitive-property triangle of Texas A&M losing to these Bulldogs and then beating Alabama, but styles make fights and some things best left to the philosophers. 

But the circle, for Alabama, is not yet unbroken.

For those who felt that the speeches of Will Anderson Jr. and coach Nick Saban himself would fix every offensive and defensive issue that hampered Alabama in its 41-38 loss to Texas A&M, that’s not the way things work, not even for Alabama. Frankly, the 2010 Alabama team, loaded with talent, tried to fast-forward back to dominance and never did regain it until it had a month to prepare for a mashing of Michigan State in the bowl game.

Yes, Anderson walked the walk even more impressively than he talked the talk. 

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This was, as Saban says frequently, a part of the process. Mississippi State is an odd game to prepare for, running an offense that no one else in the SEC is committed to so completely. But Alabama prepared well enough to counteract the time-of-possession difference. A pick-six and a 75-yard Jameson Williams touchdown that seemed to take about 3.8 seconds once he shifted into gear affected that balance as well.

More than anything else in football, on offense or defense, explosives kill. Saban said so coming off the field at the half. 

Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle (9) and linebacker Bennett Whisenhunt (55) celebrate against Mississippi State. 10/16/21
Photo by Crimson Tide Photos

For much of the first half, the Alabama defense was bend-not-break until dialing up the right blitz or pressure that led to two interceptions. The performance of the unit was also better, probably due in part to MSU’s lack of a finishing weapon. Will Rogers’ clearly injured shoulder was a factor, too. 

The first play of the second half ended things. Mississippi State, already forced to settle for field goals in the first half, gave up a score immediately on Williams’ flash of lightning and, even had Rogers been healthy, MSU has no comeback capability to answer.

From there, it was too much Alabama, doled out by Saban in the way a zookeeper feeds the boa constrictor: slow, methodical and, unless you are a big reptile fan, a bit hard to watch.

What happens going forward? The SEC West remains chaotic, and those old familiar nemeses – LSU and Auburn – suddenly look a lot more threatening that they did even two weeks ago. 

The point, though, isn’t to excitedly advance straight to those games. It’s to show additional incremental improvement against Tennessee, then use the blessed oasis of an open week to build on two weeks of improvement.

Maybe even defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who gets little respite from the criticism, will get some momentary peace and quiet. Other than Georgia, there is not a team in America that looks like a better College Football Playoff contender. (Caleb Williams at quarterback does give Oklahoma a different dimension, defense or not.) 

None of that should matter. The cowbells are now in the past and there is no reason to think about anything that isn’t Orange. 

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt