Top-ranked Alabama starts fast in routing Mississippi State

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Coming into Saturday's game, top-ranked Alabama was a 24-point favorite over No. 11 Mississippi State.
As it turned out, the Crimson Tide had that margin by halftime.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) rolled over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs 38-7 during a homecoming rout.
The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the first drive of the second quarter and never looked back. Alabama finished with 414 yards on offense, including 235 through the air.
"I thought it was important for us to get off to a fast start in this game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "You are preparing yourself to fight a 15-round fight, knowing that you are going to have to take the fight to them in the early rounds. You can't necessarily win the fight in the first round, but you can certainly lose it. I think we had the right mental energy and the right physical energy to play in the game."
AJ McCarron completed 16 of 23 passes for 208 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while freshman T.J. Yeldon rushed 10 times for 84 yards and a score.
Tight end Michael Williams caught five passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to lead the Crimson Tide in that category, while Kenny Bell hauled in one pass for a 57-yard score.
Alabama wasted little time getting on the board. The Crimson Tide scored on the opening drive when Yeldon ran 11 yards for a touchdown.
Alabama's defense has not allowed an opponent to score on an opening possession all season, but Mississippi State (7-1, 3-1) came close to being the first. The Bulldogs put together a nine-play opening drive before Devon Bell's 31-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Dee Milliner.
The Crimson Tide would go to the air on its next possession. McCarron threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Bell to make it 14-0 before the end of the first quarter.
Alabama extended its lead on the first series of the second quarter when McCarron found a wide-open Williams in the end zone from 9 yards.
"It was all part of the game plan," Williams said. "We saw different things, and we saw holes through where the tight end could get open, and just on that particular play, I had one on one with the cornerback, he widened out, and it opened up space for me."
Alabama was aided on the eight-play, 73-yard drive by two 15-yard penalties against the Bulldogs, including unsportsmanlike conduct on coach Dan Mullen.
The teams traded possessions on the next seven series without a first down until Alabama was able to extend its lead just before halftime. Jeremy Shelley's 34-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining gave the Crimson Tide a 24-0 advantage heading into the locker room.
Mississippi State drove 97 yards on 16-plays early in the third quarter down to the Alabama 1-yard line. But after leading the Bulldogs to six first downs, Tyler Russell was picked off in the end zone by Alabama's Robert Lester.
"I think there were two really critical plays in the game," Saban said. "They drove the ball right down the field on us, and we get a blocked field goal early in the game, which is a big play. I also think when they drove the ball 90-some yards on us and we got an interception -- both those things we huge."
Another Lester turnover early in the fourth quarter set up Alabama's next score. After a punt bounced off Mississippi State linebacker Deontae Skinner, Lester recovered at the MSU 28-yard line.
Three plays later, backup quarterback Phillip Ely connected with Eddie Lacy on a 27-yard touchdown toss to give the Tide a 31-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Alabama's Christion Jones caused Jameon Lewis to cough up the football, which was recovered by Landon Collins of the Crimson Tide at the Mississippi State 43-yard line. Eight plays later, Kenyan Drake waltzed into the end zone from 3 yards out.
Mississippi State scored its only touchdown with just under five minutes to play when backup quarterback Dak Prescott hit Robert Johnson on a 2-yard pass.
The Bulldogs finished with 256 total yards and just 47 yards on the ground.
Russell connected on 15 of 30 passes for 169 yards and an interception. SEC leading rusher LaDarius Perkins ended the evening with just 38 yards on 15 attempts.
Chris Smith was Mississippi State's leading receiver with three catches for 78 yards.
NOTES: The Crimson Tide have not allowed an opponent to score on an opening drive all season. ... Alabama has scored 30 or more points in every game this year. ... McCarron has thrown a school-record 270 consecutive passes without an interception.

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