There was a fear among Alabama fans this week. Will the Tide suffer a hangover from the LSU game like they did last year against Texas A&M? That fear was justified on a windy night in Starkville. Alabama’s offense was sloppy throughout the contest, and finished with two fumbles and a pair of interceptions. A championship level defense had to bail out the error-prone offense in order to keep the Tide in the driver’s seat to Pasadena.
Alabama racked up 383 total yards including 196 on the ground. TJ Yeldon’s 169 yards rushing is a career high for the sophomore from Daphne. The turnovers dent those statistics though. An interception by Mississippi State’s Taveze Calhoun during the fourth quarter saved what would have been an Alabama touchdown by tight end OJ Howard. One of the fumbles was the catalyst for Mississippi State’s lone touchdown drive.
Delving deeper into the game statistics further spotlight how poorly Alabama played, particularly on offense. The Tide was only 4-of-12 on third down, and committed five penalties for forty-one yards including a pair of savage facemasks.
As poorly as the numbers make the Tide offense look, the Alabama defensive statistics are very heartening. The defense held the Bulldogs to fifty-three yards rushing on twenty-nine carries for a 1.8 yard average. Mississippi State gained 197 total yards, and only converted 4-of-15 on third down. CJ Mosley led an Alabama team that only gave up ten first downs with eight total tackles. In a stroke of luck, none of State’s four fumbles were lost throughout the game.
One player that deserves special mention is Alabama’s punter Cody Mandell. Alabama had four punts on the evening, and Mandell averaged fifty-five yards on them. The NFL record for net punting in a game with a minimum of four punts is 59.5 yards just to give some perspective on how great Mandell’s night was. The Alabama punter has consistently delivered all year, and should be seriously considered for the Ray Guy Award which annually goes to the nation’s best punter.
Alabama returns to the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium for a tussle with the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga next weekend. It will be Senior Day in Tuscaloosa, and the Tide’s final chance to tune up for what is shaping up to be a tremendous Iron Bowl.