No.1 Alabama Downs No.16 Mississippi State
Everything has to go the visiting team’s way to avoid a loss in Tuscaloosa during the Nick Saban era at Alabama.
No. 15 Mississippi State couldn’t catch a break in its 24-0 loss to the No. 1 Crimson Tide on Saturday at Bryant Denny Stadium. Some of the wounds were self-inflicted. Others were downright unlucky.
As is often the case in T-Town, the madness started on Bama’s first possession of the game. Running back Damien Harris fumbled on the third play from scrimmage, and Mississippi State clearly recovered.
The Dogs’ defense jumped up and celebrated, but the officials grabbed the ball and spotted it as a gain of four. The Tide retained the ball without an official review. Minutes later the scoreboard read Alabama 7, Mississippi State 0.
“I considered challenging it, but the information I got from guys up in the booth who saw it and had a great view of it said that the guy was down and it wasn’t going to be overturned,” Moorhead said.
The Tide made it 14-0 later in the first quarter after a 13-play, 83-yard scoring drive. There was another potential fumble from tight end Irv Smith Jr., but the officials blew the play dead.
In the second quarter, Alabama gifted Mississippi State a fumble on a botched handoff. The Bulldogs recovered. That one stood. Moorhead tried to take advantage with a flea flicker on second down, but senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald didn’t let it fly and took a lengthy sack.
Junior receiver Deddrick Thomas was wide open.
“I didn’t see him,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s on me. I don’t know how to fix that. Look harder I guess? I don’t know.”
The Dogs’ defense went back to work, sacking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to force a three-and-out. Keeping with the theme of the previous possession, Mississippi State misfired on capitalizing on the opportunity. Junior Deddrick Thomas fumbled the punt, and Alabama recovered. The Tide made it 21-0 three plays later.
Sophomore running back Kylin Hill broke off a 38-yard run to get State in scoring position for the first time on the Bulldogs’ last possession of the half. Then a mixture of self-harm and questionable officiating took place.
Hill appeared to score after catching the ball in the flat and racing to the pylon. Thomas was called for a block in the back on what could be described as a “phantom call” – Thomas didn’t do much of anything but throw his hands into the air to avoid contact with the defender.
So on second and long, Fitzgerald threw an incomplete pass into coverage. He had senior running back Aeris Williams wide open in the end zone but didn’t see him. Then Fitz found senior tight end Justin Johnson for what appeared to be a touchdown. Not to be – MSU was flagged for delay of game before the snap.
Fitzgerald was sacked on the actual third-down play, and sophomore Jace Christmann missed a field goal attempt as time expired in the half. The Bulldogs trotted into the locker room down 21-0 in a game that should have been much closer.
“We’re not going to beat anybody by scoring zero points,” Moorhead said. “We certainly had some opportunities throughout the game but too many miscues.”
As many missed opportunities as Mississippi State had, though, the Bulldogs simply weren’t going to score in the 20’s even if everything went their way. Once again, Moorhead’s offense was abysmal at times on the road.