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No. 1 Alabama holds off Mississippi State 20-7

The SportsXchange

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Top-ranked Alabama survived a road scare in the Southeastern Conference Saturday night, taking a 20-7 win over Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium.

With the victory, Alabama (10-0 overall, 7-0 SEC) clinched a share of the conference's Western Division championship. Alabama will still have to defeat Auburn in the regular-season finale to secure a berth in the league's championship game in Atlanta.

Mississippi State (4-6, 1-5) will have to win its final two games -- against Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., and at home against Ole Miss -- to gain bowl eligibility for a fourth straight season.

"Obviously, it was a tough loss for us right there," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "I thought our kids did some good things. Alabama showed why they are the No. 1 team in the country. Their kids made plays in critical moments."

Alabama survived a tight contest last week against LSU and found itself in another tussle Saturday night. Alabama committed a season-high four turnovers but was able to hold MSU to a season-low 197 yards of total offense.

"We typically struggle when we come over here and play," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "You have to give Mississippi State's players and coaches a lot of credit. They had a really good plan and played very physical.

"We won the game but we really didn't beat the other team."

The Bulldogs recovered a fumble and picked off a pass in the fourth quarter. This allowed Mississippi State to start two possessions in Alabama territory. An injury to starting quarterback Tyler Russell forced Mississippi State to its third option, Damian Williams, on the game's final three possessions. MSU's final two scoring threats ended on downs.

"The defense did a great job there at the end of the game to make those stops after those turnovers in really tough field position," Saban said. "They were one score from really getting back into the game so you have to say a lot about the resiliency of the team in terms of hanging in there."

Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for a game-high 160 yards on 24 carries, including a critical 50-yard run late in the first half.

The Crimson Tide moved 78 yards on six plays to take a 10-0 halftime lead. On third down, A.J. McCarron hit tight end Brian Vogler in the corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.

Alabama drove 59 yards on 14 plays with the game's first possession. Cade Foster converted on a 33-yard field goal to give the Crimson Tide a 3-0 lead.

Alabama's second score came right after Mississippi State failed to convert its best scoring chance of the opening half. Behind the power running of LaDarius Perkins, MSU moved the ball from its own 20-yard line to the Alabama 2. Facing a third-and-1, the Bulldogs failed to convert a pass attempt but were penalized. Facing third-and-6, the Bulldogs again were denied.

Evan Sobaisk's 33-yard field goal try was wide right.

Mississippi State went back to work and scored early in the third quarter. After a fumble recovery, the Bulldogs moved 46 yards on five plays. On a quarterback keeper, Russell kept but was hit and fumbled at the Alabama 3-yard line. Charles Siddoway made the recovery in the end zone for MSU's lone touchdown.

After MSU closed within 10-7, Alabama answered with its best drive of the contest. McCarron moved his squad 77 yards on nine plays. Kevin Norwood caught an 11-yard touchdown pass in the rear of the end zone for a 17-7 lead.

Alabama put together another extended drive to end the third quarter and start the fourth quarter. This 75-yard march ended with Foster hitting a 35-yard field goal to close the scoring.

"There is not one person in the locker room who didn't expect to win the game coming in here tonight," Mullen said. "We expected to stop them and we expected to score, but we didn't do that. We didn't stop them enough and we didn't score enough."

McCarron completed 18-of-32 passes for 187 yards. Wide receiver Amari Cooper had four catches for 45 yards.

For MSU, Perkins rushed for 25 yards, and Russell completed 15-of-24 pass attempts for 144 yards.

NOTES: Alabama has now won 10 or more games in six straight seasons. ... Alabama has won 18 straight road games, the longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. ... Mississippi State recorded a season-high four turnovers on defense. ... The crowd of 57,211 was fourth-largest in Davis Wade Stadium history. ... Alabama led at halftime in all 10 games played this season. ... MSU was held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season. ... The Bulldogs were held to a season-low 24 rushing yards in the first half.

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