The University of Alabama football program has played more games against Mississippi State than any other opponent, and the series dates back to 1896.
The Crimson Tide also entered the weekend riding a 13-game winning streak over the Bulldogs including last year’s 41-0 win in Tuscaloosa on Halloween night.
Here's what Nick Saban had to say afterward:
"Well, I was really proud of the way our players competed in the game. We certainly needed to respond, and I think the players responded the right way. We played a 60-minute game, sort of dominated the game the way we like to play. I think it's the way you want to play on the road, it's the way you control the crowd, and I thought our guys did a really good job of that. We had a good week this week. It was good preparation, good focus. I think the big thing that our players — and I told them this after the game — don't want to forget how you felt last week because you responded the right way, so let's make sure we continue to build on what we just did. We got a lot of tough games coming up, so I want to focus on improvement. But [we] did unbelievably well on third down, offensively. I think we were, like, 12-16 on third down. I thought the defense did a really good job in the game. Three picks were great, red zone defense was great. Really got to play these guys and not give up explosive plays. We gave up a couple, but for the most part did a really good job. [We] affected the quarterback positively with three, four, five guys rushing. So, the multiples were probably good for us, and I think our players did a really good job of executing the plan, so it worked out really good. Had good balance on offense, so really pleased with the way we performed in the game."
On the change in the team’s attitude…
You ever get humbled? I think humility is a great thing for all of us to have. I think sometimes when you have success, it’s human nature to sometimes think you don’t have to continue to do things the right way, create the right habits, get sloppy. And then the redemption is not good, which we learned last week. These guys have a lot of pride, there’s a lot of culture in the program here that our fans, our former players, people in the organization, people at the university expect us to compete at a certain level. We call it the Bama standard. So I thought we did that. We did it for 60 minutes. We didn’t get relieved. We didn’t relax in the game, which is really the first time all year that we really have done this the way we’d like to do it.
You talk about how important turnovers are. What do you guys do differently in practice or do things work out better in terms of creating turnovers?
The guys did a really good job — you know, when they're in four wideouts all the time the formation variables are not that great. So, we could play multiple coverages and they could make adjustments to what we were doing, and the players did a really good job of executing it. I think affecting the quarterback probably gets him to throw balls that you get chances to intercept. I think when Josh Jobe intercepted it, we were showing up in the box like we were blitzing, rolled out and played cover two. The guy threw a fade to the guy and Josh Jobe is playing cover two, so when you can mix things up like that and create some confusion. I think sometimes that helps. It was a new trips coverage that we played in this game, called it 'thief', the one [Jordan] Battle intercepted and scored a touchdown on. So, our players did a really good job. They knew what the patterns were going to be relative to the formations and the receiver locations and they did a good job to play them.
You mentioned last year Mississippi State's defense likes to keep everything in front of them. How much of that did you see tonight?
Last year, the big plays we made against them we threw the ball over their head. The big plays we made today we caught the ball and ran with it, and because we took a couple shots early in the game and they really played soft, but Jameson's [Williams] long run was nothing but a curl. But because they were playing off of him, he was able to catch it and run with it. So, I think that's how we made the explosive plays today, I think our play action game was good. We still struggled sometimes with our protection, got sacked a couple times. But I was really pleased with the way our guys caught it and ran with it and made some explosive plays.
They got in the red zone three times in the first half, all of them resulting in field goals. How much does that set the tone?
I think if you don't give up big plays, you play well in the red zone, and you get off the field on third down, then you get hard to score on. So, the way we played the game today we knew that when the field shrunk it would be harder for them to work the field, and we played a lot of split safety coverages down in the red zone, which if they can run the ball, you're a little more apprehensive to do that. But it makes it harder for them to pass. We also got some good pressure on the quarterback when we were in the red zone, so that also helped. But I think the players — this is the best we've played in the red zone, so I was really pleased. Had a good plan and the players did a good job of executing it.
On the success in rushing the passer…
I think that the fact that we rushed three guys a lot and then we rushed four guys a lot and didn’t really rush five guys a whole lot, at all, shows that those guys did a really, really good job of especially in the four-man rush — of creating pressure, affecting the quarterback. And that’s the key to the game because if you’ve gotta start trying to pressure these guys — every time we pressured with five guys, the ball came out so fast, run a little slant, so you don’t have a chance to get to the quarterback.
But when you can rush with four and play split-safety coverage and five-under man and match patterns, the quarterback holds the ball and the pressure’s good. But I thought Will did an outstanding job out there pressuring the quarterback. We actually had the quarterback a couple other times and he got away from us. But it affects them, and I think that was as big a part of the game as anything.”
On calling a timeout at the Mississippi State 1-yard line to run the ball…
“You just said it, you walked yourself through it. We had a play called, we called timeout, we changed the play. You wanna know the truth? I’m not gonna tell you the truth. I’m not gonna throw anybody under the bus. One of the things about – I said this earlier – when you go fast and you’re using signs and you’re going no-huddle, those plays get called and those signs go up and those signals start, it’s really hard to change plays unless you call timeout. And last week, we didn’t call timeout, this week we did.”
Linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
You had four sacks tonight. The most sacks since 1988. What does that mean to you?
It means a lot. I still have not accomplished what I want to. I give all the thanks to my coaches and teammates. The preparation was good this week. We were all on the same page, and good things come out of that.
Safety Jordan Battle
Coach Saban talked about installing a new coverage called thief to help create turnovers. Can you take me through how that helped you tonight?
It helped me a lot. In practice, it helped me create turnovers today. We practiced the number three on the ball, Cardner rout, and that is how I caught my first interception. The film and the executing helped
What was different this week?
We were all locked in. We were focused. Most of my interviews I have said that football has to be the most important thing, and I think definitely this week football was the most important thing. We did not want that feeling that we felt last week.
Quarterback Bryce Young
How does your team's athleticism help your decision making?
It helped a lot. With the dynamic of guys we have, our job is to try to get them the ball in a place where they can run and be special afterwards. We saw that a lot tonight. All of them came from really great yards after catch. For me that is a quarterback's dream. You get to throw, it gets in the playmakers hands, and they do the rest. The guys making plays like they did today makes my job way easier.
What did you see out of the defense to allow you to scramble?
We stress taking what the defense gave us. For me trying to go through my aggressions. Coach OB does a great job with quarterback's while we are watching film. He emphasizes to keep our eyes down field, but if you see green grass take it. For me, today that is what they gave us on those given plays. Our whole offense is to take what the defense gives us.