On the road a week after a big win against LSU, No. 2 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) recorded more sacks in a single game than any other game coached by Nick Saban in a 24-6 victory at No. 17 Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC). Alabama’s defense recorded eight sacks of Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott. Prescott had been sacked just three times all season before today.
Alabama’s victory was keyed by three big plays in the first half. Cyrus Jones returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Jake Coker completed a 60-yard pass to Calvin Ridley for another, and running back Derrick Henry found daylight for a 74-yard touchdown run as Alabama opened up a 21-3 lead in the first half. Henry continued his Heisman Trophy push with 204 rushing yards and a second touchdown by the time the game was done.
Red zone miscues were a problem for Mississippi State. In the first half, the Bulldogs were stuffed on a fourth and goal from the one-yard line, leaving the potential scoring drive with nothing to show for it on Mississippi State’s second possession of the game. The home team also had a missed field goal and a lost fumble in the first half at a time when Alabama was struggling to get anything going on offense. It was only a matter of time, it seemed, before Alabama would make Mississippi State pay for not taking advantage of a strong defensive effort.
Alabama will wrap up its home schedule next week against Charleston Southern. The next time they take the field for an SEC contest they could, hypothetically, have the SEC West crown clinched. Alabama would need LSU and Ole Miss to lose one more game to clinch the division. LSU and Ole Miss play each other next week, so one is guaranteed to lose and fall out of the hunt. If things beyond their control do not work out for Alabama this week and next, then Alabama will head into the Iron Bowl looking to take care of business themselves.
Mississippi State also has two games remaining, both in SEC play. Next week Mississippi State will visit Arkansas. The Bulldogs return home the following week for the annual Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.