Defense powers No. 1 Alabama past No. 18 MSU, 24-0
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s offense didn’t put up the video game-like numbers that had seemingly become commonplace. The defense played so well, again, that it didn’t matter.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide had its second straight shutout in a 24-0 victory over No. 18 Mississippi State on Saturday, while Josh Jacobs ran for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass.
With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa still battling a gimpy right knee, the Tide (10-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 1 CFP) turned to defense for another vintage performance.
“I think in this day and age, you not only get judged on whether you win but you get judged on how you win,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I never thought I’d ever be in position to say that you get style points but the way our system is, that may be the way it is.”
The offense had already banked plenty of style — and real — points along the way.
Alabama raced to a fast start but mostly stalled from there against the Bulldogs (6-4, 2-4) and the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense.
Tagovailoa started the fourth quarter on a stationary bike after getting his right knee checked out in the medical tent following a low hit. He didn’t return and wasn’t needed, mainly because of a defense that was overshadowed by an offense that had led the nation in scoring much of the season.
Saban said Tagovailoa could have returned if needed.
“He got hit low a few times out there today,” Saban said. “He got hit in the front of the knee and not the back, which is where his problem was. I think he’s OK.”
Fresh from a 29-0 victory over No. 9 LSU, the Tide defense hasn’t allowed a point in nine-plus quarters. It’s the first time Alabama has had consecutive shutouts since beating Western Carolina and Auburn to end the 2012 regular season.
“It’s a great feeling,” Tide linebacker Dylan Moses said. “It means we got the job done.”
Alabama had five sacks and Mississippi State had four in a rough day for both quarterbacks against two talent-rich defensive lines.
Tagovailoa was 14 of 21 for 164 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also lost a fumble on a botched exchange with Damien Harris.
Backup Jalen Hurts missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Jacobs ran for 97 yards on 20 carries as Alabama. He scored on a 1-yard run and a 14-yard catch.
The Bulldogs stuffed Harris on the goal line on a late fourth-down attempt.
“I think certainly, defensively, we continue to play well,” Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said. “We continue to fight our tails off. We held them under 350 yards. It was most prominent bowing their back on that last drive and keeping them out of the end zone. That’s the type of pride and physicality we play with defensively. We certainly gave ourselves an opportunity with how we played.”
Nick Fitzgerald was 11 of 20 for 125 yards for Mississippi State, which gained just 44 yards on 30 rushes.
Alabama scored touchdowns on its first two drives, consuming more than 10 minutes combined with 156 yards. The Bulldogs mostly held the Tide’s prolific offense in check after that.
Alabama outgained Mississippi State 305-169 in total yards.
The Tide’s third TD was set up by a fumbled punt return at Mississippi State’s 27 in the second quarter.
Mississippi State: Penalties helped cost opportunities to make this game close as Bulldogs couldn’t cash in on several promising drives. Kylin Hill had a 38-yard run but the running game couldn’t get much going beyond that.
Alabama: Didn’t have a play longer than 25 yards on offense. Defense had 10 tackles for loss and Alabama didn’t commit a penalty. Guard Deonte Brown went down with turf toe.
Alabama matched the school record with its 24th consecutive home victory. The mark was initially set from 1971-74 at Legion Field and Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Mississippi State hosts Arkansas in another SEC West matchup.
Alabama hosts The Citadel in what should amount to a break before the Auburn game.