STARKVILLE, Miss. (rolltide.com) - The University of Alabama (9-1 overall; 6-1 in the Southeastern Conference) defense sacked Mississippi State (7-3 overall; 3-3 in the SEC) quarterback Dak Prescott nine times and Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-6 victory over the Bulldogs before an overflow crowd of 62,435 at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field on Saturday.
Alabama's defense produced 12 plays for losses against a high-powered State offense, limiting the explosive Prescott to 14 rushing yards on 26 attempts and holding the Bulldogs out of the end zone for the first time in 36 games dating back to MSU's 2013 season opener. It also marked the end of a 32-game streak by Prescott in which he had scored a touchdown in a game, the longest streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The nine quarterback sacks by the Tide defense is the most by an Alabama defense since 1998 when it also tallied nine against Vanderbilt.
Henry scored on runs of 75 and 65 yards as the Crimson Tide offense overcame a slow start with a methodical ground game while the Tide defense held off several State scoring threats. Henry turned in over 200 yards rushing in a game for the third time in 2015, becoming the second Alabama back to do that three times in a single season.
Tide linebacker Reuben Foster led Alabama with 10 tackles (six solo). Defensive end Jonathan Allen had three quarterback sacks among his seven tackles. Defensive end A'Shawn Robinson had 2.5 sacks among his five tackles, linebacker Ryan Anderson had two sacks among his five tackles and linebacker Tim Williams added two sacks in his five stops. Nose guard Da'Ron Payne had 1.5 sacks in his three stops while linebacker Denzel Devall had one sack on his only tackle of the day. Alabama racked up 12 tackles for losses totaling 58 yards, forced three fumbles (recovering one), broke up seven passes and had four quarterback hurries on the day.
Alabama broke on top, 7-0, early in the second quarter on a 69-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones. On Alabama's next possession, wide receiver Calvin Ridley took a pass from Coker at the Tide 49 in the middle of the field, cut back and juked a defender, then raced to the end zone to complete a 60-yard scoring play, extending the Tide lead to 14-0. State responded on the next possession with a 31-yard field goal by Westin Graves that narrowed the lead to 14-3 before Henry raced 74 yards for a touchdown to give the Tide a 21-3 lead at the half.
A 42-yard field goal by Adam Griffith gave Alabama a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter. State added a 39-yard field goal by Graves late in the third quarter before Henry sealed the verdict with a 65-yard touchdown run with 7:53 left in the game.
Alabama continues its season next Saturday, November 21, with a non-conference game against Charleston Southern at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. Central Standard Time and the game will be televised by The SEC Network.
Alabama won the coin toss and deferred its option to the second half. Mississippi State chose to receive the opening kickoff.
Alabama junior defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson sacked Prescott on the opening play from scrimmage. After the Bulldogs picked up a first down, Prescott was sacked again on first down, this time by Tide junior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Prescott also kept the ball on second and third down, resulting in no gain on both plays.
Alabama took over at its own 16 but was forced to punt after three plays. Senior quarterback Jake Coker appeared to connect with freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a first down, but Ridley dropped the pass.
Aided by a defensive pass interference call and a fourth down conversion, the Bulldogs threatened to get on the board first. Starting at its 47, State moved into Crimson Tide territory following the pass interference penalty. Prescott was sacked for a third time in the opening quarter when junior linebacker Ryan Anderson got into the backfield quickly, causing a fumble on the hit, but the ball was recovered by the Bulldogs. Prescott completed a screen pass to receiver Fred Ross for 17 yards on third-and-20 and, on fourth-and-3 from the Alabama 31, Ross took a pitch on the option for nine yards to extend the drive. The Bulldogs moved inside the Tide 5, eventually facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1 where Prescott was stacked up short of the goal line, resulting in a turnover on downs.
The Tide effectively moved the ball away from the shadow of its own goal, taking the ball to the Tide 39, but an interception on a deep pass attempt at the State 28 put an end to the drive. The teams then traded punts. Alabama's defense forced a turnover on State's next possession when running back Ashton Shumpert fumbled as he was going to the ground. Linebacker Ryan Anderson recovered the ball, setting up the offense at the Bulldogs' 47, but the Tide went three-and-out. On the final play of the quarter, Prescott aired a deep ball to receiver Donald Gray, who got under it for a gain of 54 yards to the Alabama 33.
Score: Alabama 0, Mississippi State 0.
The Bulldogs failed to capitalize on the long pass play, only picking up one yard before bringing out kicker Westin Graves for a 50-yard attempt. However, the kick came up short, preserving the scoreless tie. Another three-and-out by Alabama gave the ball back to State but, after converting one first down, the Bulldogs stalled once again, as Prescott threw into double coverage on third down. That set the stage for senior defensive back and punt returner Cyrus Jones, who hauled in Logan Cooke's punt at the Tide 31 and weaved his way through traffic, taking it 69 yards to the end zone for the game's first score. Junior kicker Adam Griffith added the extra point, and the Tide held a 7-0 advantage with 10:44 remaining in the first half.
Alabama's defense continued to be disruptive with its front seven, as a sack by junior linebacker Tim Williams on third down produced another three-and-out. The Tide offense started from its 35, but quickly faced third-and-5. Going into the drive 0-for-6 on third down attempts, Coker stood tall in the pocket and delivered a strike to Ridley, who was beyond the chains for the first down at the Tide 49. Ridley then turned up field, made a tackler miss, and dashed past the Bulldogs secondary for a 60-yard touchdown reception. It was the first passing touchdown for the offense since the Arkansas game on Oct. 10. The extra point extended Alabama's lead to 14-0 thanks to its second touchdown in just over two minutes of play.
State was able to respond, but only with a field goal. Prescott and Ross contributed the majority of the yardage on the drive, as the two connected for gains of 14 and 41 yards through the air. The Bulldogs reached the red zone again, but an errant pass on third down brought out Westin for another field goal attempt, which he knocked through the uprights from 31 yards out. That trimmed the Tide's lead to 14-3 with 6:10 left in the opening half.
Star junior running back Derrick Henry had struggled to that point in the game, carrying the ball five times for 13 yards. He got the call on second down, but was tripped up for a gain of only one. However, on third-and-9, Coker handed the ball off to Henry on a draw play, and Henry burst up the middle untouched before breaking away for a 74-yard touchdown. With just over five minutes to play in the first half, Alabama held a commanding 21-3 advantage.
Taking over at the 20 and needing a scoring drive to steal momentum away from the Tide going into the locker room, Prescott orchestrated a drive that reached Alabama territory at the Tide 35. The Tide's defense took pushed back at that point, with Robinson recording a sack on first down and Anderson bringing down Prescott behind the line on fourth down. Despite being outgained, 254 to 180, Alabama's six quarterback sacks and big plays on offense and by the special teams had given the Tide a comfortable halftime lead.
Score: Alabama 21, Mississippi State 3.
The opening drive of the third quarter for the Alabama offense was an impressive one. Using a balanced attack, the Tide moved the ball 41 yards in nine plays to get into position for an Adam Griffith field goal attempt. The big play of the possession was a quick touch pass from Coker to sophomore wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, who took the ball around left end for 19 yards. Griffith's field goal was good from 42 yards out, giving Alabama a 24-3 margin less than five minutes into the second half.
Prescott quickly moved the Bulldogs into Alabama territory, finding Brandon Holloway for 22 yards on a swing pass and Fred Brown open for another 19 yards through the air. But the Tide defense thwarted the drive with a sack on third down, this by Tim Williams. It was initially ruled that Prescott fumbled on the play, and the loose ball was picked up by senior defensive lineman D.J. Pettway and returned for a touchdown; however, the call was reversed as replay revealed the Prescott's knee was touching the ground before the fumble, and State punted.
Following an Alabama three-and-out, the Bulldogs again put together a solid drive, as Prescott either kept the ball on the ground or threw a pass on every play. He completed four straight passes to go along with rushes of eight and nine yards. Yet again, the Tide's defensive front kept State out of the end zone. Following a false start penalty on first-and-goal, Allen sacked Prescott on back-to-back plays. Graves took the field on fourth down for a 39-yard field goal attempt, which was good to cut into the lead, which stood at 24-6 after three quarters. Score: Alabama 24, Mississippi State 6.
While Alabama's next offensive drive did not result in any points, it did effectively drain nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Tide held the ball for 13 plays, gaining 59 yards. Most of that came via the running of Henry, who carried nine times for 35 yards. After an incompletion on third-and-5 from the 16, Griffith came on for a 32-yard field goal try, but it was blocked by State's Tolando Clevelan. State could not take advantage of the blocked field goal, as Prescott failed to connect with a receiver on second and third down following a gain of seven on first down.
Henry put the game out of reach when the offense took the field for its next drive. After gaining nine yards on first down, he took a handoff on second down and cut to the outside to easily pick up the first down. It appeared Henry would be pushed out of bounds there, but he accelerated past a defender, sprinting down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run. The junior running back eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the game on the play, and Alabama held a 31-6 lead with 7:53 to play. Henry's work was done as he became the second Crimson Tide back to rush for at least 200 yards three times in a single season, finishing with 204 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Marlon Humphrey ended the next State possession after two plays, as he sat back in coverage and came away with an interception at the Tide 47. He returned the ball 29 yards down to the Bulldogs 24.
Sophomore Cooper Bateman took over at quarterback for Alabama when the offense took the field. Bateman handed off to freshman running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough twice apiece, but the Tide did not pick up a first down, giving the ball back to State.
The Bulldogs also put in their backup quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, for the remainder of the game. He was able to convert a couple of first downs running, but misfired on a fourth-and-6 passing attempt.
Alabama's offense ran out the rest of the clock, with Harris and Scarbrough getting an additional carry.