Upon Further Review: Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7

Freshman linebacker Shane Lee was surrounded by a lot of teammates after making his interception at Mississippi State.Alabama Athletics
Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s really not much to say about Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury at this point other than everyone feels sick about it, and wishes him the best with his surgery and recovery.

As for what might be next for him, there’s no way of knowing. Hopefully his playing career is the last thing on his mind right now, including playing in the National Football League.

Regardless, with his season over, here’s a look at where Tagovailoa sits in numerous categories in the Crimson Tide record book.

  • Touchdowns responsible, career: first, 96
  • Passing attempts, career: fourth, 685 (John Parker Wilson 1,175)
  • Pass completions, career: fourth, 474 (AJ McCarron 686)
  • Highest completion percentage, season: first 71.4
  • Highest completion percentage, career: first 69.3
  • Most yards passing, career: third, 7,442 (McCarron 9,109)
  • Average yards per game: first, 251.0
  • Touchdown passes, career: first, 87
  • Most 300-yard passing games: first, 10
  • Most four-touchdown passing games: tied for first, 12 (McCarron)

Also, Tagovailoa finished the 2018 season with a passer-efficiency rating of 199.4, which set an NCAA record. He topped it this season at 206.9.

However, Jalen Hurts is still ahead of him at 209.1, with more games remaining. The statistical category is how the NCAA determines its annual passing champion.

If Tagovailoa turns pro, his 199.4 career mark will blow away Sam Bradford’s record of 175.6 (2007-09).

Play of the game: Sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Waddle’s 35-yard touchdown was the last Tagovailoa threw this season. It was also the only one in the game in which the Crimson Tide receiver had a defensive back on him in coverage.

Jaylen Waddle catches a touchdown pass at Mississippi State
Jaylen Waddle catches Tua Tagovailoa's final touchdown pass of the season.Alabama Athletics

Player of the game: Tagovailoa. He was 14-for-18 for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Statistic of the game: Thanks to freshman lineman Shane Lee’s interception, Alabama scored 14 points in exactly 14 seconds, before Mississippi State had a yard gained on offense or special teams.

Here are 10 things you may not have noticed from Alabama’s 38-7 victory at Mississippi State:

1] A new look: With opponents trying to minimize returns, Alabama went with a different formation to help field high kickoffs, with five up front instead of six, four on the second line and Henry Ruggs III and Brian Robinson Jr. deep. The four in the middle were Slade Bolden, Major Tennison Cameron Latu and Christopher Allen. After freshman Jordan Battle came back and fielded the first high kick, sure enough Mississippi State sent the second kickoff at the linebacker Allen. He fielded the fair catch.

2] Field position: The best field position Mississippi State had to start a drive was its own 26-yard-line, which it did twice. Also, the Bulldogs longest special-teams return was just 1 yard. The worst starting point on Alabama’s five touchdown drives was its own 30.

3] Explosive plays: Nick Saban defines them as a run of 13 or more yards, or a pass of 17 or more yards. Junior running back Najee Harris had four and has a cushion for the team lead at 28. Junior wide receiver DeVonta Smith is second with 24.

4] Stopping explosive plays: The Bulldogs managed six overall, including four in the run game. Twice they took advantage of freshman interior linebacker Christian Harris lining up wide to apply pressure, only quarterback Tommy Stevens took off for gains of 27 and 46 yards. They accounted for more than half of his 96-yard rushing total.

5] Injuries: Freshman nose tackle D.J. Dale had a lineman land on his leg when he hurt his knee. Senior Raekwon Davis was accidentally hit by teammate Christian Barmore when he suffered his ankle injury. That Davis was one of the players who visited Tagovailoa in the hospital was a good sign if for no other reason he wasn’t in the hospital himself having the tightrope procedure for a high sprain.

6] Something to keep an eye on: Although the schemes were completely different, sophomore interior linebacker Markail Benton wasn’t used nearly as much as against LSU. Mississippi State targeted another player who had a rough outing against the Tigers, senior defensive back Shyheim Carter. He had two passes thrown in his direction, neither of which was completed, along with a couple of screen passes.

7] Who was thrown at: The Bulldogs didn’t complete a single pass on Alabama’s cornerbacks. Mississippi State’s most successful pass was a 30-yard completion to a tight end, who initially blocked and ran a delayed route. A 19-yard completion to running back Kylin Hill came against Lee – who finished with 10 tackles and had an interception.

8] Yards after the catch: Although Alabama played a lot of kill the clock in the second half, we charted the Crimson Tide with 117 yards after the catch during the first two quarters and 42 thereafter. Of note, though, Jerry Jeudy now has more yards after the catch than last season when he won the Biletnikoff Award.

Jery Jeudy at Mississippi State
Jerry Judey had seven catches for 114 yards at Mississippi State.Alabama Athletics

9] Got your six: Alabama only traveled eight defensive linemen, so with Dale and Davis out it was down to six: Byron Young, Justin Eboigbe, Tevita Musika, Phidarian Mathis, Stephon Wynn Jr. and Barmore. That’s a junior-college transfer, a sophomore and four freshmen (two true and two redshirt).

10] The true freshmen: Freshman tight end Jahleel Billingsley’s reception was the first of his career, and he became the 13th player to catch a pass this season. Meanwhile, with freshman quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa playing, he’s now appeared in four games. The Crimson Tide has had 15 freshmen play in more than four games this season, which is the cutoff point to redshirt.

Here are the remaining players from the recruiting Class of 2019 on the roster and how many games they’ve played (Alabama signed 27 players and one quit the team):

  1. RB Trey Sanders: 0, injured
  2. OL Pierce Quick: 3
  3. DL Ismael Sopsher: 0
  4. OL Amari Kight: 0
  5. DB Scooby Carter: 3
  6. DB Brandon Turnage: 0
  7. LB Kevin Harris: 0
  8. DL Braylen Ingraham: 1
  9. OL Tanner Bowles: 1
  10. QB Paul Tyson: 0

Something to ponder: Mississippi State had a key defensive back, safety C.J. Morgan, lost for the season due to an injury suffered in the second half. How come no one has speculated why he was still in the game?