STARKVILLE, Miss., - Mississippi State expected a battle with another highly ranked opponent at Davis Wade Stadium Saturday night.
Instead the Bulldogs got a blowout.
No. 3 ranked Alabama held MSU down offensively and scored on several big plays of their own in a 31-3 victory in front of a school record crowd of 58,103.
"It was 17-3 in the fourth quarter and we are driving down there and don't come away with points," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "We gave up two long touchdowns after that to kind of blow it open. I guess that could have just as easily happened in the other games but we could have kept it just as close. Give (Alabama) credit because they battled and fought and made some big plays there at the end."
The Crimson Tide scored three of their four touchdowns on plays of 45 yards or more remaining perfect inside the Southeastern Conference at 7-0 and overall at 10-0.
Alabama totaled 444 yards on offense picking up 252 yards on the ground and another 192 through the air.
"We had some guys play some great football for us," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We made some big plays on offense. I thought we had pretty good balance."
The Bulldogs defense held Heisman hopeful running back Mark Ingram in check with only 79 yards on 18 carries until he busted loose on a 70-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Ingram finished the night with 149 yards on 19 carries and two scores.
Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy completed 13-of-18 passing for 192 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Julio Jones led the Tide receiving corps with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Marquis Maze also made four grabs for 55 yards.
After a scoreless first quarter, Alabama got things going offensively marching 80-yard in six plays crossing the goal line first on a 45-yard touchdown pass from McElroy to a wide open Darius Hanks. Leigh Tiffin provided the point after giving Crimson Tide a 7-0 lead with 12:48 on the clock.
Alabama scored again on their next possession after holding the Bulldogs to their second consecutive three and out. The Tide chewed up 72 yards moving the chains five times and scored on a 1-yard run by Ingram. Tiffin's extra point gave Alabama a 14-0 advantage which they held at halftime.
The Crimson Tide converted a 39-yard field goal by Tiffin on the first drive of the second half following a 42-yard third down completion to Maze.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chad Bumphis raced up the left side line 89-yards for an apparent touchdown but was then ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the UA 38-yard line where Mississippi State took over on offense.
"I was right there in front of it and the official was right there," Mullen said. "He came right up to me and said he hit the white. I said 'are you sure? You'd better be sure because that's a big play.' He said that he hit the white and he was in the perfect position to make the call."
After picking up one first down, the drive stalled bringing on Derek DePasquale for a 36-yard field goal attempt that was no good.
The Bulldogs finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter following a 15-play drive that including two fourth down conversions. MSU drove down to the 5-yard line but a 11-yard sack of Tyson Lee second down eventually forced a 34-yard field goal by DePasquale pulling the Bulldogs within 17-3 with 10:35 remaining.
It did not take long for Alabama to answer. Javier Arenas returned the kickoff 46-yards to midfield. McElroy dropped back on the first play from scrimmage and tossed a 48-yard scoring strike to a wide open Jones.
"We just did not focus and stick to our assignments," said MSU linebacker Jamar Chaney. "Plays like that were just a busted coverage. They did not beat us on those plays, we just messed up. The big plays came when we messed up and missed tackles."
Tiffin booted the extra point putting the Crimson Tide up 24-3.
Lee was picked off for the second time in the game by Mark Barron on State's next possession.
On Alabama's first play from scrimmage, Ingram broke loose on a 70-yard touchdown jaunt straight up the middle. Tiffin's point after was true giving the Tide a commanding 31-3 advantage which stood for the remainder of the game.
State managed only 213 yards on the night and had three turnovers on two interceptions by Lee and another by back-up quarterback Chris Relf. The Bulldogs picked up 114 yards rushing but had only 99 through the air in the loss.
"We had a couple of opportunities to make some big plays but we didn't come down with them," Mullen said. "That was the big difference in the game. We'll work on that, get better and pretty soon we are going to be making those plays and when we do great things are going to go our way."
Anthony Dixon finished the game with 140 yards of total offense leading Mississippi State with 81 yards on 22 totes and catching six balls for 59 yards.
"It's a combination of things," Dixon said. "We didn't execute. That's just what it was. We didn't execute and they executed. We made them look good however it goes."
Lee ended the evening 9-of-17 passing with 99 yards, no touchdowns and two picks.
""We weren't able to move the ball like we needed to," Lee said. "In the second half we were able to come out and establish the running game which definitely opened up the passing game. We just weren't making big plays when we needed to."
Rolando McClain led the Crimson Tide defensively with 10 tackles including two tackles for loss and one sack. Cory Reamer added seven tackles, two stops for loss and a sack while Justin Woodall and Kareem Jackson each finished with six tackles.
Barron intercepted two passes while Marquis Johnson made one interceptions and made three crucial pass deflections to prevent MSU touchdowns. Luther Davis also added a sack for Alabama.
Chaney and Chris Whiteeach had eight tackles to pace the Bulldogs defense. Johnthan Banks and Kyle Love added seven tackles each while Charles Mitchell and Pernell McPhee had six stops apiece.
State drops to 2-4 in the SEC with the loss and 4-6 overall. The Bulldogs would have to win out with games at Arkansas and hosting Ole Miss to become bowl eligible.
"Our guys goal just like everybody in the SEC was find a way to get to Atlanta," Mullen said. "When you don't hit that goal you want to get to a bowl game. I think once we realized we weren't getting to Atlanta that was the focus of our team. Here it is November 14th and there weren't many people that gave us a chance to get to a bowl game this year. It's November 14th and we are still battling and fighting our way to get there and still have that opportunity with two games remaining."