Despite Injuries, Alabama Defense Gets Back On Track In 38-7 Win Over Against Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, Miss. — They were tired of hearing the noise.
It was worse than the cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium during Alabama's 38-7 victory over Mississippi State.
For seven days, the Crimson Tide defensive players had heard nothing but criticism following the 46-41 loss to LSU, giving up over 500 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.
So they did something about it: Hold the Bulldogs to 270 total yards of offense, including just 82 in the air, and set up an Alabama touchdown with an interception.
“We wanted to come out and put on a dominant performance,” Crimson Tide linebacker Anfernee Jennings said. “We wanted to put last week to rest and reestablish the Alabama identity. I feel like we took a step in the right direction.”
Along with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury that caused him to leave the game, defensive linemen Raekwon Davis and DJ Dale suffered knee and ankle injuries, respectively. Both left in the second quarter and did not return.
Davis was carted off the field into the locker for X-rays right before halftime and Dale was spotted in street clothes limping off the field at the end of the game.
“I think Raekwon has a sprained ankle and DJ has a twisted knee,” Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said. “A couple other guys were beat up."
Freshman linebacker Shane Lee made his presence known early, intercepting quarterback Tommy Stevens on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage. He finished with 10 total tackles, which led the team.
The interception kept the defense’s streak of forcing at least one turnover alive for a 10th straight game.
“I did not even really see the play,” Crimson Tide defensive back Xavier McKinney said. “But I knew he picked it off. I saw he got tackled by the quarterback out there, and I was kind of on him for that because he should have scored. That was a big play in the game. It was early. I feel like that was good for us.”
It set the tone for the Crimson Tide, but not on the immediate Bulldogs’ possession.
Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill capped off an eight play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. After that, the Crimson Tide defense settled back in, making the Bulldogs punt four consecutive times to end the first half.
Hill was the SEC’s leading rusher coming into the game. He was held to 35 yards on 16 carries for an average of two yards per rush.
On the second play of the third quarter, Stevens broke out a huge 46-yard run to put the Bulldogs into the Crimson Tide territory, but the defense ended up forcing a turnover on downs inside the red zone.
“We gave up a couple explosive runs,” Saban said. “When you run those quarterback runs and if you do not have those extra backers in the box and if everyone does not hit their gap then, you get gashed. That happened to us twice. But other than that, I thought we played really well on defense. We played with a lot of discipline and we tackled really well.”
Crimson Tide linebacker Ben Davis registered the only sack of the day, but the defense was in Stevens’ face all afternoon giving him all he could handle in the pocket, which caused him to complete less than 60 percent of his passes.
“I felt like we got after him,” Jennings said. “I feel like this Mississippi State wants to run the ball a lot and we did a good job stopping that so he had to drop back and throw it.”
Up next for the Crimson Tide is Western Carolina, which is set for an 11 a.m kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium.