Against the number one team, Mississippi State University was unable to execute, get breaks or outperform the University of Alabama, as they lost by a score of 24-0. However head coach Joe Moorhead said Alabama is what should motivate the Bulldogs every single day.
“If you want to know what the best team in the SEC looks like, and what a team that is competing for a national championship,” Moorhead said. “That is it. So we wake up every single day–that is what we are chasing, that is the standard of the team that we want to become.”
The game got off to about as bad of a start as one could imagine, a blown fumble call that would have given MSU the ball at the 50, lead to a touchdown by the Crimson Tide on a 1-yard run up the middle by Damien Harris. Moorhead explained why they decided not to challenge the fumble.
“I considered challenging it,” Moorhead said. “The information I got from my guys in the booth who saw it, said that guy was down and that it was not going to be overturned, as they said the guy was down.”
MSU struggled to stop Alabama again as they marched down the field and scored on a 1-yard touchdown by Josh Jacobs as Alabama took a two possession lead early on in the game. However, this was the last touchdown the defense gave up until the end of the second quarter.
On offense, there were a few miscues due to crowd noise as the center snapped the ball prematurely, hurting MSU twice. Moorhead explained what happened on those plays and how it slowed down the offense.
“One, it was loud; two, we have worked on it all week, I want to say Elgton was jumpy,” Moorhead said. “We were working off of a clap cadence, he heard something that sounded like a clap, and the ball got snapped. You cannot get first down plays and then have that happen, and it puts you in second and long. You cannot be behind the sticks against these guys.”
MSU’s defense forced a punt, but a muffed ball gave Alabama the ball with about four minutes to go in the first half. Jacobs caught a 14-yard pass to make MSU pay for a costly turnover and take a three-touchdown lead. Moorhead said officiating and turnovers can and do affect the momentum of a game, as seen tonight.
“Certainly when you get a turnover, you want to capitalize on that,” Moorhead said. “As for officiating, certainly anytime you get points taken off of the board, it swings the momentum in a different direction.”
MSU was unable to get a big play in the first half as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was unable to see Deddrick Thomas who was wide open on a flea flicker. Moorhead said he just did not see him in time to get rid of the ball.
“He got his eyes down and said he could not see him,” Moorhead said. “That is something that we drew up this week. We said we needed to get explosive plays, and that was one we wish he could have seen.”
The defense held on until the fourth quarter, when Alabama made a 49-yard field goal. The defense kept MSU in the game for much of the second half, and gave the offense plenty of chances to score.
“I think our kids were feeding off of the momentum of our defense,” Moorhead said. “We just were not able to convert any third downs. We needed to convert some of those third downs in order to continue the drive.”
Despite MSU’s defense playing so well, as they forced four sacks against an Alabama offensive line who had only given up six sacks all season, they were unable to keep Alabama from scoring more than 20 points.
“They are number one for a reason,” Moorhead said. “It is not just the offense, it is not just the defense, it is not just the special teams–it is the big picture, and how they put it together. To play well against them defensively, I would say limit them as we certainly did not stop them–that is where your defense picks up the slack.”
While MSU did not win the game, they did seem to show glimpses of what they can do in the future of the program, as they competed to the very final quarter against the best program in the country.
MSU will play Arkansas at home next Saturday, and kickoff is set at 11:00 a.m.